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    Samantha Morton and Jason Patric in Expired. in Expired
    Samantha Morton and Jason Patric in "Expired."

    You'll ticket and you'll like it

    "Expired" is a surprisingly genuine relationship movie, considering that it's about two parking enforcers who don't know how to love.


    "Expired" is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

    Written and directed by: Cecilia Miniucchi.
    Cast: Samantha Morton, Jason Patric, Teri Garr, Illeana Douglas, Sonia Iris Lozada, Jonny Mack.
    Cinematography: Zoran Popovic.
    Edited by: Fritz Feick, Anne Goursaud.

    Related links: Official site
    Village East 187 2nd Ave at 12th St.

    Wrong, however, in a good way.

    It's a romance about two meter maids — or, I guess I should say a meter maid and a meter man. And rather than "a romance," I guess I should say a fiasco. It's as if, late on the night before shooting the movie, writer-director Cecilia Miniucchi came home really drunk and rewrote what would have been a perfectly standard love story, replacing every line with something exquisitely incorrect.

    The incorrect people at the center of this story are Claire and Jay. Claire is played by the always improbably lovely Samantha Morton, her hair held tightly against her head, much as her personality is held tightly inside her skin. Jay is played by Jason Patric, who is much too handsome for the awkward Claire but wouldn't mind giving her a tumble because he's so personally obnoxious he hasn't had a real woman in decades. For people who are used to everybody hating them as an occupational hazard, what the hell, it's like a dream come true.

    The movie is a satire, in a romance picture's clothing, of how far an insecure woman can go to convince herself that what she has with a toxic man is something like love.

    "I met a new guy today," Claire tells her mother. "He seems like a good guy. I mean, a little angry. But maybe he's hurting inside or something."

    Another time she asks for her mother's advice: "Do you think it's better to have something than ... nothing?"

    Her widowed mom (Teri Garr) has had a stroke and lost the ability to speak, but she readily points to her own wedding ring as an answer to most any question.

    You root — sort of — for these two impaired people to fix themselves up and figure out how to stick together. But can people really change who they are inside? Does a tender moment here compensate for a callous one there?

    I left the theater thinking I had just seen a twisted experiment in how many inappropriate and uncomfortable things a filmmaker can make characters say in one movie. Now, however, I feel there was something very true in it. There was a barely voiced desperation — a carefully shielded flicker of hope meticulously wrapped in a blanket of self-loathing — beating inside the characters' hearts. These people are odd and inept and a little unreal, but they are very close to something authentic and raw in the human psyche. This is a movie that will surprise some people and might speak, in its absurd manner, to their spirits. How, you may ask yourself, could something so wrong feel so right?

    JULY 5, 2008

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