Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Don McKay, as played by Thomas Haden Church, is a miserable lonely man. He’s well into his forties and works a crap job as a janitor at a high school that he’s been at for the last twenty five years. While being a janitor is an honorable profession, being a janitor at a high school, surrounded by high schoolers, is a crap job. Then he gets the letter. Apparently when Don was back in high school my man was madly in love with Sunny (Elizabeth Shue) and Sunny has written Don to let him know that at this time in her life she desperately needs him and now Don McKay’s totally off the wall adventure is about to begin.

So Don makes his way back to his old home town where he is sort of infamous for reasons which will remain somewhat vague. He goes to Sunny’s old house where he is greeted by Sunny’s caregiver Marie (Melissa Leo) who is mighty protective of poor Sunny because Sunny is not long for this world. We don’t know exactly what affliction has befallen Sunny, but it makes it difficult for her to breathe and keep her balance, and it also causes her to forget things such as her wallet when she has to go to the store with Don and buy stuff. As it turns out a lot of my friends suffer from that very same affliction. It’s tragic.

Still, sick as she may be, Sunny still musters up the strength to spend quality evenings in bed with Don and her sickness hasn’t had any effect on the woman’s hair trigger temper.

Then some odd things start happening to Don. For starters Sunny’s primary doctor who is really, really jealous when it comes to his patient for whatever reason, tries to kill Don. That’s not cool. What’s even more screwed up is that Don had to deep-six this clown and stash him in the back yard which has Don in quite the frenzy. He contacts his old friend Otis (Keith David) from back in the day who was at first happy to see Don, then not so much when he finds out why Don looked him up after twenty five years. Plus Sunny is acting really strange, stranger than before because she was acting strange pretty much from the word go.

There’s something about this whole situation that isn’t completely right, and while Don McKay isn’t the brightest bulb in the box, he’s not a complete idiot. He’s an idiot, but not a complete idiot. We wouldn’t have called Don an idiot at all but eventually everything that’s going on has to come out in the wash and when it does… yeah, Don McKay is certainly an idiot.

I liked this movie ‘Don McKay’ from writer / director Jake Goldberger… I did… but… It’s just that… You see this movie has a conclusion that forces you to revisit a lot of the movie in your mind’s eye, and when you do that the narrative, which really wasn’t drum tight to start with, begins to unravel to almost unmanageable proportions. I can’t ruin this wacky conclusion for you because if you haven’t seen the movie then that would take away one of the best of the things about this movie, and that is getting to this wacky conclusion. If you’ve seen ‘Don McKay’ then you already know what I’m talking about.

‘Quirky’ is a word often used to describe Goldberger’s film and it is an apt description as odd as the whole exercise turns out to be, though the genre naming consortium which classifies this movie as a ‘Thriller’ or a ‘Mystery’ might be a bit off as this is more of a dark comedy than anything else, and as a dark comedy it works very well. Thomas Haden Church delivers this bizarre, one-note performance where he sports this painful grimace throughout the entire film which I think normally would throw you off, but considering everybody else around Don is nuts, Church’s singular look of pain gives the movie some much needed stability. These nuts included a real eclectic group of talented character actors with Elizabeth Shue leading the way giving us one of the strangest fatal females we’ve seen in some time. Sunny… for lack of a better word… was a trip. The whole movie was a trip. And with Melissa Leo, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Keith David and James Rebhorn, these are some mighty talented actors in this tripped out, quirky movie. Plus Bobby Hebb got some play in the movie. You can’t beat that with a stick.

Eventually, if you watch this movie, you will have to deal with Don McKay and his particular pathologies which are very difficult to resolve. I don’t know what to say… but Don… I just don’t know. Anyway, if nothing else ‘Don McKay’ is a different kind of movie, and it does entertain in its efforts to be different and that is appreciated. It’s just that Don… man, I don’t know about Don.

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