REVIEW: ‘Donald Cried’ finds two friends reconnecting after decades

Donald Cried stars, from left, Jesse Wakeman and Kris Avedisian. Photo courtesy of The Orchard.

Donald Cried, the new indie playing in New York City and Los Angeles, finds two friends meeting up 20 years after their lives moved in different directions. Kris Avedisian, who also directed and wrote the script, stars as the title character, a homebody who never left the orbit of his hometown in suburban Rhode Island. Peter, played by Jesse Wakeman, has moved on to bigger and better things in New York City, but the death of his grandmother brings him back to his old haunts and the reality that Donald has never moved on from high school.

The film, running less than 90 minutes, is a true study of the Donald and Peter characters. There are some supporting roles throughout the narrative, but the focus is on these two friends and how time has created a gulf that seems insurmountable for them to cross.

First off, Peter is having a horrible day. On his way to Rhode Island, he loses his wallet and is stuck making the final arrangements after his grandmother’s passing. He needs some money and a ride to the local funeral home, so he heads across the street to see if Donald’s family still lives in town. To his surprise, Donald, sporting a scraggly beard and often wearing a robe, lives at home and cannot believe that his old friend is back in town.

What ensues are two days of awkward moments between the old buddies. Donald wants to pick up right where they left off — taking drugs, listening to heavy metal, hanging out. Peter, on the other hand, is held hostage by the fact that he needs some money and a ride around town, so he needs to put up with Donald’s eccentric and odd ways.

As the story progresses, the characters teeter-totter on the fine line between comedy and drama. At first, Donald comes off like a character from a adult-minded comedy like American Pie. He has no problem with nudity in front of his old friend. He has no problem buying drugs at a local park. He has no problem bringing up embarrassing memories from their youth.

However, after spending time with Donald, it becomes clear that he’s genuine, that he’s a man stuck in his house without the financial means to leave his high-school mentality. He’s crass and inappropriate, but it’s almost impossible to call him a bad guy. He genuinely feels for Peter and his predicament, and all he wants to do is have some fun, to relive the good old days.

Peter plays the businessman to Donald’s goofball. He’s dressed in nice clothes with a scarf tucked perfectly into his coat. His hair is trimmed, and he’s pleasant and respectful. He even talks with a Bluetooth stuck in his ear. In other words, he couldn’t be further from Donald’s characterization (Donald still has a flip phone to further prove their differences).

The progression of events over these two days has less to do with Donald realizing the missed opportunities of his life and more about Peter realizing Donald is hurting, and it has been a long time since this New York banker has had fun and thought about the community that formed him as a teenager.

Donald Cried is not earth-shattering entertainment, but Avedisian and Wakeman should be applauded for their dedication to these two characters. Avedisian, in particular, has such a drive as the title character that it becomes clear within minutes this is not an act. Here’s a genuine person who has never socially advanced beyond his high school generation, and Donald Cried asks whether he’s the problem or the judgmental people who never look in the rearview mirror.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Donald Cried (2017), written and directed by Kris Avedisian and starring Avedisian and Jesse Wakeman, is currently playing in New York City and Los Angeles. Not rated. Rating: ★★★☆ Click here for more information.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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