DONALD CRIED, drama, not rated, Center for Contemporary Arts,
No, it’s not that Donald. Not Donald. This Donald, the one who cried, is a sort of Everydonald, a man-child with a goofy grin and a puppy-dog capacity to absorb slights and come back wagging his tail.
For many people, adult life starts with a reset button. Getting away from the place where you grew up provides an opportunity to reinvent yourself, to take the agonizing lessons of adolescence and reprocess them, Gatsby-like, into someone more suitable for moving forward.
Peter ( Jesse Wakeman) is a buttoned-up Wall Street type who has left his stoner youth in Warwick, Rhode Island, far behind. But the death of his grandmother brings him back to his hometown to settle her affairs. There, the somewhat strained device of a wallet lost on the bus leaves him unmoored from his power base, and at the mercy of the Fates.
These show up in the form of a chance meeting with his old high-school pal Donald (Kris Avedisian). Donald is so happy to see Peter he practically licks his face. Peter could scarcely be less thrilled. If he could blow Donald off, he’d do it without a backward glance. But he is in need of transportation and the loan of a few bucks, so he has to grin and bear it.
And so begins a cringe-filled trip down memory lane into hometown purgatory. With the aid of a few drinks and a few tokes, Peter sheds a layer or two of his big-city persona and reveals glimpses of his former self. It’s not a particularly pretty picture. He seems to have been a meanspirited jerk as a teen, who sometimes treated his buddy Donald with a condescending cruelty. A mutual acquaintance reminds him of a time he made Donald cry.
Donald hasn’t grown up much since those high school years. He still lives at home, where his room is papered with heavy metal memorabilia and an autographed poster of a porn star. But beneath his sloppily exuberant friendliness we begin to distinguish traces of hurt, and a passive-aggressive hostility, with which we can slightly sympathize as the film tugs our allegiances back and forth.
Avedisian, who co-wrote (with Wakeman) and directed the film, creates a large and memorable character in Donald, and delivers a testimony to the premise that you may be able to go home again, but be prepared for a painful experience. — Jonathan Richards