It could so easily have been dismissible juvenilia. Nostalgic ’80s references? Check. Nightmarish Lynchian visions? Check. A tortured youth driven to shake up his drab suburban life? Check, check and double-check.
Yet writer/director Richard Kelly's debut is anything but juvenile. The ’80s setting is mined for a smattering of sly laughs and the creepy, surreal touches are plotcentric rather than whimsical. The troubled-adolescent aspect, meanwhile, works thanks to Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance, which crackles with dark, stormy energy. And if you were bemused by the brain-bending ending, here’s the perfect opportunity for a second pass. Trust us, it works.