“DONALD CRIED” My rating: B
85 minutes | NoMPAA rating
Kris Avedisian’s “Donald Cried” is a comedy of discomfort.
The premise finds a reasonably normal individual being held a virtual captive by a socially inept, borderline delusional idiot whose behavior is alternately needy, manic and childlike.
But beneath the film’s high squirm factor some interesting cross currents are at work. Avedisian’s screenplay is sneakily good at misdirection, and before it’s over our views of these characters will undergo a significant metamorphosis.
NYC investment banker Peter (Jesse Wakeman) has returned to his wintry New England home town to settle the estate of the grandma who raised him. He’s not happy to be back…in fact, he’s not set foot in the place since his high school graduation 20 years earler.
To make things worse, he lost his wallet — cash, credit cards, i.d. — on the bus ride from the city. Desperate, he reluctantly turns to his neighbor and boyhood friend Donald (director Avedisian), a gawky manchild with a terminal case of arrested development.
Donald is a total geek who apparently cuts his own hair with manicure scissors. He still lives in his mother’s house and works a part time in a bowling alley. He does a lot of pot and blow. His hobby is attending adult entertainment conventions. (“Do you still masturbate?” is one of his first questions to his long-lost friend.)
Donald is thrilled to have his old running buddy back on the scene and immediately begins fantasizing how they can pick up where they left off. His imagination runs riot…he even suggests that he and Peter travel back to New York and rob a bank. He dogs Peter like an intrusive and overaffectionate St. Bernard, following him to the mortuary to collect grandma’s ashes and to the nursing home to reclaim her few belongings.
No matter what the situation, Donald may be relied upon to say or do something totally inappropriate.
Peter can only tolerate this idiocy. He relies on Donald’s car and limited cash to get him through the day.
For the first half of the film we’re in Peter’s shoes. We don’t want to be around Donald, but we’re stuck. He’s an embarrassment, a flashing signpost announcing all the parochial, pathetic reasons we got the hell out of Dodge and started over in the big city.
But in the course of the day we learn that much of Peter’s discomfort stems from his abuse of Donald when they were kids (the film’s title is a hint), that far from being a well-rounded, successful adult he, too, is trapped in the limitations of his past. (We should have known something wasn’t right when Peter phones a bank co-worker to wire money and the guy announces he’s too busy.)
Things get really overwrought when Peter cruelly ditches Donald to canoodle with an old high school acquaintance (Louisa Krause) who’s the sales agent for grandma’s house.
“Donald Cried” is about escaping your past — and about the futility of that effort. Donald drives Peter crazy precisely because he reminds him of what he once was.
This is writer/director/star Avedikian’s feature debut. Can’t wait to see what he’s got next.
| Robert W. Butler