Don’s Plum is a diner/bar is where four friends meet with their dates for the evening. They talk about everything, anything, and ultimately a whole lot of nothing. I vaguely recall hearing of this film in the late 90s, when it was reported to be so terrible that it had been banned. At the time, I believed that was possible. Now I know it’s anything but the truth. Don’s Plum came back onto my radar last week when it was pulled from Vimeo and I knew that I had to see it for myself.
When we meet Ian (Tobey Maguire), he is at a jazz club that is strange, to say the least. A scene like Party of Five stumbled into Rocky Horror Picture Show and then somehow found itself airing on HBO. While that could the worst combination possible, if you can suspend your judgement and let it run its course, you might be pleasantly surprised. Ian is pitifully begging every girl who will listen to accompany him to the diner later that night. It is no great surprise that he is single, and an unceremonious vegetarian. He finally ropes in Juliet (Meadow Sisto), a waitress who’s just ending her shift.
Meanwhile, Amy (Amber Benson), a hitchhiker on her way to Vegas, has been picked up by Jeremy (Kevin Connolly), an actor looking for his big break. Brad (Scott Bloom), who has all but outgrown the group, and is harboring a not-so-secret secret, brings along his one night stand, Sara (Jenny Lewis). Derek (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the last of the friends to join and the only one “flying solo”, despite his best efforts. The reasons for this are soon readily apparent. Sara’s friend, Constance (Heather McComb) arrives just as things start kicking off.
With the way these guys treat girls, it’s no small wonder they have a hard time finding dates. In the early 2000s, a writer for the National Enquirer claimed Don’s Plum was hostile toward women. Though you could make the argument that it’s not exactly kind to anyone, to say the entire film is “anti-women” would be a drastic oversimplification. Some of the men make disparaging remarks against women, but other insults are hurled in practically every direction, at anyone who doesn’t fit in with the group and even at others within the group.
They’re a high school clique that hasn’t realize that high school ended years ago.
Because the dialogue is mostly improvised, it rarely feels forced and as such that the characters ring true. I feel like I might have known these people in high school, maybe even been friends with some of them. If Don’s Plum been released on a typical time schedule, it might have been a favorite film among my friends as we were known to have similar conversations.
They don’t shy away from topics, including masturbation and suicide, which could be shocking to some but are not nearly as outrageous as the coke-fueled orgy some would have you expect. Pump Up The Volume covered much of the same ground nearly a decade earlier, and they even aired that one on cable (with strategic edits, of course). Think of it as the video equivalent of a Leo Connellan poem. Not for prudes or the faint of heart, some ladies might take offense or say it’s crass. I happen to enjoy it.
Visually, Don’s Plum is just not polished. The brightness is a bit out of whack, causing the whites practically glow and make the whole thing seem more blurry than it should. In a lot of cases, this be a problem, but here it adds to the realism. Like if MTV found some tapes from a scrapped season of The Real World, complete with bathroom confessionals, and thought they might as well release them. The narrative is a just short of consistent but that’s to be expected, the editors had to work with what they had. There is no way this could have been cut down to a short. In fact, if anything, I would like to have seen more. We all could have used a bit of closure.
Perhaps the most striking thing about Don’s Plum is how much the film’s plot foreshadows the real-life drama. An argument between friends, only in reality it could not be so easily resolved. The reason this film is not widely known despite packing a star power punch is due to a rare case of sabotage from within. As I explain in a previous post, that disagreement stopped this film in its tracks, just shy of a distribution deal.
It could have been a challenge finding a solid fan base for Don’s Plum in an era before social media. Even with studio support, publicity would have been an uphill battle when its biggest stars were known for family fare. If it weren’t for the quarrel, Don’s Plum may have helped launch several successful careers before gliding gracefully into obscurity. Coming and going from Netflix. Hardly noticed, except when someone searched for one of its stars by name.
I can say with a fair bit of certainty that the most of the people bashing the film and spreading unsubstantiated rumors have never actually seen it, or they’re so entrenched in their own propaganda that they haven’t seen the light of true journalism in years.
Don’t be swayed by their influence, this is a solid film and one that is definitely worth seeing.
Don’s Plum is currently only legally available (in the United States and Canada) direct from writer/producer, Dale Wheatley. Visit freedonsplum.com for contact information and if you watch the film consider sending Dale a quick tweet to tell him what you think. He’s been waiting a long time for the feedback, and I’m sure he’d really appreciate it.