Donnie Darko

One of the best films of 2001 and one of the most stunning debuts of a director ever...

You'd think angst in the late '80s was reserved for those who could foresee Wall Street greed transform itself into a monumental crash a little more than a decade later. Then there's Donnie Darko, who could see the end of the world prophesied by a menacing Harvey-like bunny, a sort of guardian devil.

The film "Donnie Darko," directed by first-timer Richard Kelly, depicts teenage disaffection in such a low-key way as to make it almost sweet, largely due to the eponymous hero as played by the sweetly low-key Jake Gyllenhaal. The precipitating crisis of a falling airplane engine seems to crystallize all the danger of the modern world that Donnie accepts ruefully and cynically. This film is funnier and more truthful than last year’s excellent "Ghost World."

Although at times Kelly seems to be imitating David Lynch, this is as original a film as "American Beauty," "Memento," or "Mulholland Drive" and sometimes just as dense. Yet there are moments of clarity such as when he tells a gym teacher where to put her timeline or when he exposes the self-help guru (Patrick Swayze) for what he really is. Donnie is a crusader for the disaffected teens of the world.

The key ingredient of the film’s success is that Donnie appears to be normal except when he’s bullied by a giant rabbit. Not a totally weird kid, just a slightly rebellious teen who can see the end coming. Make sure you see one of the best films of 2001 and one of the most stunning debuts of a director ever.