is one of two movies released in 2001 to feature a human-sized, demonic-looking rabbit. The other is Donnie Darko
. Both these films are worth seeing, but the latter is one of my favorite films. Friday night, I watched it for the third or perhaps fourth time.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays troubled teen Donnie Darko — a ninth grader, I’m guessing. Donnie’s older sister is played by, well, Jake’s older sister, Maggie Gyllenhaal, whom you will never, ever forget once you’ve seen Secretary
. Chief amongst Donnie’s woes is a bad sleepwalking trend. He frequently finds himself far afield in the morning. At one point, we see him waking up on a golf course. The previous night, he had a conference on the putting green with his six-foot rabbit-demon, Frank. It’s that kind of movie. (It was released in October and its story ends on Halloween.)
But it’s also about time travel, the hypocritically self-righteous, agonizing school environments, not fitting in, the eighties, and falling in love. Perhaps it tries to do too much, but it does an awful damn lot of it well. You just have to ignore all the scenes — and there are not too many — that feature Drew Barrymore; they are ruined by, you guessed it, the acting of Drew Barrymore, who generally has the right idea only when she sticks to work like Charlie’s Angels
. The film takes place in 1988 and contains clear homages to eighties films E.T.
and The Abyss
. There’s also a ton of great eighties music, including two Tears for Fears songs.
The Tears for Fears songs trip me out. I was a Tears for Fears junkie in my youth. I remember, very distinctly, at the age of sixteen, driving home late at night in my ‘68 Beetle, heading home from my job at Sea World
, hurtling eastward on San Diego’s I-8, windows down, Tears for Fears blaring. Those were years of pining and unhappiness; those were years during which I strongly identified with the lyrics in one of the songs used in Donnie Darko
I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had
Those years seem like a completely different lifetime to me now. Impossibly distant. I suppose this odd feeling is just a natural part of getting older. It feels strange all the same.
The “my past seems like a different life” riff has been playing in my head rather a lot lately. An old friend asked me this past week whether I’ll be at my ten-year reunion in August. I don’t think I will. I am pleased that that era feels impossibly distant to me now, and I think I want to keep it that way.
[Donnie Darko also has a frighteningly engaging web site]