Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen. ― Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again
Well, sometimes reverent listening isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when you go home and find things not only unchanged, but unhinged. Kris Avedisian’s excellent Donald Cried is a great, gloriously uncomfortable can’t-miss classic, a bleak comedy (it’s not for the kids!) with a sentimental side that will get under your skin if you identify with any of the characters portrayed here. Even if you don’t, you’ll be laughing one moment and reflecting the next. A sort of love child of Chuck and Buck, The Odd Couple and Curb Your Enthusiasm, the film serves up a perfect trip to hell for its poor protagonist, Peter Latang (Jesse Wakeman) after he heads up to Rhode Island to take care of his late grandmother’s affairs.
Having lost his wallet as the film begins, Peter ends up knocking on Donald’s door (he just so happens to live across the street from Pete’s dead grandma) and things go sideways, then downhill from there. Avedisian, reminiscent of a young Nic Cage crossed with a slimmer, less athletic Chuck Norris, gets major mileage out of every uncomfortable un-silence in his portrayal of Donald, a classic man-child with a bit of an unbalanced side. Wakeman’s portrayal of Peter goes from slightly snooty city slicker to back-sliding willing participant as Donald slowly but surely gets him to lower his guard as things devolve back to high school days. A bit of loosening up is what Peter needs, but Donald’s unstable nature results in a few awkward situations.
As Pete’s pretty much at Donald’s mercy thanks to having no money, he’s pretty much at his wit’s end a few times during his short trip back to the past. The entire town and the people he meets seem locked in the late 80’s 0r early 90’s and poor Pete’s feeling victimized and traumatized with no escape. When he finally gives into Donald’s wildness, things get calm for a brief period as the two men find common ground. But that short peace doesn’t last. Interestingly enough, the final section of the film doesn’t slide off the deep end as you might think. It instead goes for a more beat over upbeat ending that works exactly as it needs to.
At just under an hour and a half, the film doesn’t wear out its welcome at all. Yet it strangely leaves you wishing it were a few minutes longer just so you could see a few more loose ends tied up. Then again, who knows just where you’d end up with Donald at that point. Go see this one, folks.