Let me preface this review by stating this fact: I love this movie so much that I bought a Frank the Bunny costume as soon as I could and I wear it as cosplay to at least one convention every year.
There, now that we got that out of the way, let me tell you about Donnie Darko and the greatness that is Frank the Bunny. It’s a sci-fi film that was released in 2001, directed by Richard Kelly and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Patrick Swayze, Katharine Ross, Mary McDonnell, and Noah Wyle. A surprising decent size of diverse “all-star” cast members for a small independent film that only had a budget of $4.5 million!
The film takes place in October 1988, with a troubled teen (and the main character), Donnie Darko, sleepwalking outside his house in Middlesex, Virgnia. He is woken by a strange figure dressed in a minister looking rabbit costume. This figure introduces himself as “Frank” and tells Donnie that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. When Donnie returns home in the morning, he finds that a jet engine has crashed into his bedroom. FAA investigators tell Donnie’s older sister, Elizabeth, played by Maggie Gyllenaal, that they do not know where the jet engine came from.
Donnie’s home is set in a suburban setting, with his neighbors gather behind the police lines while the jet engine is hauled away on a flat-bed truck and the FBI is questioning the Darko family. After the incident, Donnie goes about his days at high school, sometimes getting into trouble, but does get a girlfriend, played by Jena Malone. His parents are supportive, with his mother, Rose, played by Mary McDonnell, being the sensible and cheerful type, and his father, Eddie, played by Holmes Osborne, is one coolheaded dude. Donnie is the middle child, with Elizabeth as his oldest and Samantha, played by Daveigh Chase, as his youngest sister.
From there, the movie takes us down a rabbit hole full of twists and turns and wonderment. This includes frequent, yet disturbing visits by Frank the Bunny, talk of time travel, and even the ability of Donnie himself to see time lines while he’s in front of his family, that appear as semi-transparent liquid arrows, leading them into their future.
The movie does have an ending, yet it is an ambiguous one. There are countless blogs/articles/forum discussions about the ending and about this movie over-all. While it only made $7.3 million worldwide, the movie has developed a cult following and did receive much critical acclaim.
Donnie Darko is a thought-provoking, whirlwind of a film. It was Richard Kelly’s first feature film and it is a shame that no big movie studio has snatched him up and given him a shot at directing a big budget film. Even filmaker, Kevin Smith, thinks that Hollywood is missing out on an opportunity, when he said in a 2016 interview: “Richard can be one of our greatest filmmakers. He is right now, but just a lot of people don’t realize it. He’s still a kid, and someone needs to (Christopher) Nolan that kid.”
I do hope someday soon, Richard Kelly does get his chance, but for now, I’m thankful that he gave us Donne Darko.