27. Donnie Darko (2001)
An astonishingly imaginative, poignant, genre-defying tale of teen love, insanity and time travel. The feature debut of US filmmaker Richard Kelly, starring Jake Gyllenhaal.
Sometimes, the more you explain, the less impact you have. That is what Richard Kelly found when his director's cut of his wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey cult classic failed to engage with anyone on the level that his debut had done on its initial release. It seems that the more ambiguous Donnie's story was, the more there was to see and to explore and there's a lesson to be learnt there, I think. On the surface, the film is about Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) and the therapy he's undergoing to understand why he's having hallucinations about a man in a rabbit suit that tells him the end of the world is coming in a matter of weeks. But on the other hand, it might really be about wormholes in time and pre-destination. Or maybe it's really about faith versus science. Or maybe it's about education in school being under threat from personal ideology rather than the exploration of ideas. Or maybe it's a David Lynch-esque look at 80s America and how under the veneer of idyllic small-town life that we see here, there's a seething mix of personal jealousies, political hatred and sexual perversion boiling away. Maybe it's all those things, and the most astounding thing about Kelly's film is that it takes all these various strands, and where other, lesser, films would simply collapse into a mess (hell, other films don't try to do half as much as Donnie Darko and are still a mess), it instead ties them together into a glorious, looping, chaotic-yet-strangely logical tale of time travel, exploding jet engines and giant rabbits that somehow makes perfect sense at the end of it. And it does this in such a way that though you're sure you've understand what you've just seen, you want to see it again as soon as possible just to confirm your own thoughts on it. And it does all this with a brilliant soundtrack, too. Gyllenhall is excellent as the troubled teen at the centre of it, with great support from Mary McDonnell as his mother, sister Maggie as his, er, sister, Noah Wyle as a teacher sympathetic to his problems but scared of how they'll impact upon the school, Beth Grant as a hysterical parent at his school and Patrick Swayze as Jim Cunningham, lifestyle guru making inroads at the school and, as it turns out, pervert with a rather nasty secret stash of kiddie porn. What this points to is that despite the fact that this is a film named after the titular character, it's not actually about him at all. Sure, there are numerous, teen-savvy scenes about him and his girlfriend, Gretchen, but the film has the uncanny ability to make every scene a mini-movie all by themselves. An antagonistic school teachers and parents meeting that descends into anarchy could be the heart of the film. The Sparkle Motion dance contest could be. The fire that destroy's Jim's house could be. All these things and more add up to a bewitching, enticing, head-spinning whole that, much like Donnie in the superbly eerie opening soundtracked by Echo and the Bunnymen's The Killing Moon, is likely to leave you flat on back wondering just what the hell happened? - rawlinson
An instant cult classic that somehow manages to catch the mood and energy of the new millennium - even though its set in the '80s. Odd comment I know.
Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent in the lead as is Mary McDonnell as his patient, loving mother. That music is excellent! - Beetlejuice!
This film has two things I feel cool, lots of heart, and an intresting logic for you to get involved. - fernetcontonica