An absurd comedy about a Parking Enforcement Officer, who - despite constant abuse from the public - finds truth, honour and serenity in the act of ticketing. His religious devotion to the ...
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An absurd comedy about a Parking Enforcement Officer, who - despite constant abuse from the public - finds truth, honour and serenity in the act of ticketing. His religious devotion to the work is challenged however, when his best friend and personal mentor is run down by an irate motorist and knocked into a deep coma. With the help of an angry young filmmaker, a Russian sound recordist hoping to break into the local film industry, and a seven-foot tall tow truck driver from Quebec, he embarks on a comical investigation into... the delicate art of parking. Written by
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Mockumentary as a viable comedic genre was first hinted at by Woody Allen in ZELIG in 1983, more concretely defined the following year by Rob Reiner in THIS IS SPINAL TAP and then made into an art form by SPINAL TAP star Christopher Guest in his recent films, most notably WAITING FOR GUFFMAN (1997). THE DELICATE ART OF PARKING is Reel 13's Canadian effort along those same lines and while it doesn't measure to the standards of those other films, it does boast a moderate amount of cleverness and manages to be mildly entertaining for 90 minutes.
At the midpoint of the film, they introduce a "plot" to the film within the film in which a meter maid guru is viciously attacked by an irate ticketed citizen. This is a little distracting and probably unnecessary, but it goes on to dominate the rest of the film. They were doing fine by just doing portraits of these inane characters and the apparent futility of their occupations. Also, it feels a little contrived that such a dramatic thing would conveniently happen in the middle of a documentary about these characters. It seems to belie the mockumentary structure that was chosen. If you wanted to incorporate a complicated plot, just do a plain old-fashioned comedy and spare us the gimmicks.
With that said, the actors in the film are all very talented and do a great job fleshing out their respective characters. Of particular note is Nancy Robertson as the acid-tongued Harriet Sharpe and Fred Ewanuick as the die-hard parking attendant Grant, who revolves his whole life around his seemingly meaningless job. The level of detail these actors present about their characters is reminiscent of the work done by some of the Christopher Guest ensemble, like Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy. Their characters have an element of silliness to them, but they feel so real and full that they work perfectly within the parameters of the mockumentary genre.
You're probably sensing my ambivalence about the film, which is pretty much true. I often find it difficult to fall in love with comedies in general because most of them are throwing jokes at you non-stop, but most are only truly funny for a part of the time. So, like the other film this week ONE, TWO, THREE - even if a film makes you laugh a few times, that means it is probably failing to make you laugh the rest of the time, which lessens the overall impact of the film. THE DELICATE ART OF PARKING is a perfect example. While it is never riotous, it has a great deal of charm and good intentions. The very idea of a mockumentary about meter maids is funny by itself, even if it has very few moments of hilarity.
(For more on this or any other Reel 13 film, check out their website at www.reel13.org)
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