Samuel Kaufman ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Are you the kind of person who can’t handle vicarious embarrassment? When something awkward happens on a TV show does it makes you not only cringe, but have to leave the room? Is watching shows like The Office a neigh-torturous experience for you? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then Donald Cried is definitely not the movie for you.
Donald Cried is an ultra-low budget feature film adapted from a short of the same name that was made in 2012. The film is a two-hander about Peter Latang (Jesse Wakeman), a New York based banker who returns to his small hometown to collect the affairs of his recently deceased grandmother. After losing his wallet on the bus there, Peter finds his best friend from highschool, Donald Treebeck (Kristopher Avedisian), who still lives in the town. With no car, no money, and no other options, Peter tries to convince Donald — whom he hasn’t seen in upwards of 20 years — to loan him $100 and drive him around town. What follows is 85 straight minutes of unbridled tension and embarrassment as Peter and Donald spend the day together.
This movie is definitely a labor of love. It is co-written by the two lead actors (as well as Kyle Espeleta) and directed by Avedisian. It was shot for a very small budget over 11 days. The two leads do a fine job carrying the movie, relying mostly on their overwhelming chemistry (they have been friends in real life for almost 15 years) and the strength of these characters. Donald especially is an incredibly precise character, with a personality that is just barely realistic enough to be believable as a real human being living in our world. For as ludicrous as he is, you probably know someone like Donald. During the Q&A session after the screening, the creators talked about using Planes, Trains and Automobiles for inspiration, but trying to make Donald Cried more grounded than that film was. This inspiration is clear from a plot standpoint, even if they are wildly different films thematically. They both follow two characters who are forced to spend all of their time together due to extenuating circumstances. One of them is more normal and successful, but sort of an asshole (Steve Martin in PT&A, Peter in this film) and the other is a bumbling idiot who messes everything up, but is a good person deep down (John Candy, Donald).
One way that Donald Cried is more nuanced than its 1980s comedy muse is in the way information is learned about the characters. In every single scene, slightly more is revealed about one of the two men. Whether it’s about their past, family, secrets or personality, no scene feels wasted or unnecessary to understanding Peter and Donald. Without ever feeling preachy or having any big moments of revelation where the music swells and they pour their hearts out to each other, Donald and Peter slowly change over the course of the film. Not in large ways, mind you; the film only takes place over a 24 hour period, so it is only realistic to have them take baby steps, but they definitely grow.
The true success of Donald Cried is its ability to make you care about two thoroughly unlikable characters. Despite spending basically the entire length of the film wanting to slap one man or the other (it tends to vary from scene to scene) you find yourself laughing when they are happy, destroyed when they’re sad, terrified when there is danger, and digging your nails deeper into your skin when they just won’t stop talking.
The Independent Film Festival Boston runs through May 4th. Visit iffboston.org for more information.