Donnie Darko is an amazingly effective and ambitious movie when you consider how modest and indie it must have been in its initial lease. Thus its cult status. Jake Gyllenhaal is really good as Donnie, the brooding, angsty teen and the plotline is so geeky that it can't even be contained within the movie's own context. So you have this nice pairing of teen alienation and suburban ennui married to eerie supernatural psycho drama and science fiction paradoxes. Like Lost or Twin Peaks at their best. What could be better?
Well a few things, because the story doesn't really make sense. We get way too much about conservative hypocrisy, way too much about the talent show, way too many scenes with Donnie's Therapist, and not nearly enough about the actual time travel, the book, or Roberta Sparrow.
But that's what makes the movie so interesting: it gives you just a small peek into a much larger and more complex fictional universe. The rest is left not only open to the audience's interpretation, but the audience's ability to imagine or project into the narrative all those missing but hinted at pieces of the larger puzzle. The experience is like placing a time/space portal over a movie screen as you watch Evil Dead.