Expired barely avoids being labeled a total misfire


on June 20, 2008 by Pete Hammond

The temptation is to say Expired is closer to “Misfired,” but there are just enough good things here (particularly Samantha Morton as a lonely-in-love meter maid) to avoid that label. Still, this relationship study between her and the obnoxious traffic control officer she falls for just doesn’t click. Short of a tidal wave of rave reviews, box office prospects should be next to nil for this 2007 Sundance entry, a cable-ready drama that’s just too small, and flawed, to make a dent in the summer specialty business.

Claire (Morton) is a sweet, good-natured meter maid who has great empathy for her clientele, even if they happen to be people about to get parking tickets. She lives modestly with her mother (Teri Garr) and often spends time with funky neighbor Wilma (Illeana Douglas), who encourages her to spread her wings. The Marty -like story takes flight when she agrees to go on a date with a colleague, Jay (Jason Patric), a traffic cop with a severe chip on his shoulder. Both have crawled far into shells, romantically speaking and, in an unwise bid for companionship, get involved with each other. His penchant for surfing porn sites on the internet and his foul-mouthed brusque manner don’t endear him to the audience, while her air of innocence and sunny attitudes make her attraction to this guy highly questionable.

Their uneasy bond, forged out of loneliness, desperation and needs even they don’t seem to fully understand, is at the heart of the film, but other than sexual desire, the whole thing seems like a house built on sand. When a family tragedy strikes Claire, her emotional life spins out of control, ultimately headed to a new beginning—with or without Jay.

Morton, always luminous in just about everything she does, is the reason—the only reason, really—to see Expired. She represents millions of women for whom the romantic dream just didn’t happen the way they expected. Morton is wonderful, making Claire so likeable, understanding and believably human that we can’t help but root for her even as she’s caught up with a creep like Jay. Unfortunately Patric’s one-note performance doesn’t help matters or even explain why he’s dating her in the first place. In this case opposites distract. Teri Garr, in an unusual dual role, is fine in her few scenes as the drab mother and later turns up briefly as Claire’s more lively Aunt Tilde.

Italian multifaceted writer/director/producer Cecilia Miniucchi makes her fictional feature debut here (shooting in well chosen West L.A. locations), but something seems lost in translation. As a documentarian, music-video helmer, photographer, poet and songwriter among other things, she is clearly a talent to reckon with, but seems out of her league in trying to turn Expired into a cohesive look at the precarious nature of love among the lonely hearts.

Marty, it ain’t.

Distributor: MCR Releasing
Cast: Samantha Morton, Jason Patric, Teri Garr and Illeana Douglas.
Director/Screenwriter: Cecilia Miniucchi
Producers : Fred Roos, Jeffrey Coulter and Cecilia Miniucchi
Genre: Drama
Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 106 min.
Release date: June 20 NY

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