Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut

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Richard Kelly's surreal, subversive mix of sci-fi and teen drama tanked at the box office when it first appeared, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, but has since become a cult favorite at midnight shows and on DVD. This new theatrical release features 20 minutes of additional footage that introduces the characters in a more leisurely fashion and provides a more elaborate rationale for Kelly's enigmatic time-travel story. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the title character, an angry suburban teen whose visions of a fearsome six-foot bunny lead him to believe he's been chosen to save the universe. I prefer the tighter (and more baffling) original, but numerous moments from this new version remind me how artfully Kelly balances his thorny metaphysics with his loving portrayal of Donnie's misfit family and spiritually bankrupt high school. In either version this is an extraordinary experience, one of the key American films of the decade. With Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Noah Wyle, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, and Katharine Ross. 133 min. River East 21.

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