2 1/2 stars
While pulling one’s car off a road without departing the vehicle seems to have been more often than not associated with a lovers’ lane interlude in movies, that tradition may have become radically revamped these days in the midst of the Great Recession, as a last resort interior space to simply live in. Which just happens to be the predicament of the new and different 21st century protagonist in Irish director Darragh Byrne’s dramatic film feature debut about homelessness on wheels, Parked.
Colm Meaney stars in Parked as Fred, a clock repairman just returned from England to his native Dublin, presumably now jobless and looking for work in the city he originally left for that very same reason. Demoralized and psychologically withdrawn, the middle aged recluse begins living in his car in a parking lot as an expedient measure, after facing the typical bureaucratic reaction when applying for shelter. Which is incredulously, that you’re not eligible for housing if you don’t have a verifiable home address in the first place.
But Fred’s relative privacy if not comfort, is abruptly disturbed when a homeless youth likewise living in his car, takes up similar residency in a nearby parking space in the lot. The compulsively chatty Cathal (Colin Morgan)is as uncomfortable with isolation as Fred is disturbed by the lack of it, but he soon wears down the older man’s resistance to forge an odd couple friendship. Though Fred’s alarming discovery that Cathal is a junkie whose unsavory drug dealer suppliers turn up occasionally to beat him viciously for unpaid debts, both repels and arouses within himself an untapped emotional reservoir of protective paternal impulses.
There are delicately conveyed, wordless moments exploring Fred’s solemn challenges to the humiliations of difficult survival surrounded by an uncaring reality. As he goes about salvaging whatever dignity and pride he can summon in performing routine tasks out of his car, like preparing meals, shaving and reading. And rendering his dire situation somehow a little more cheerful than it actually is, when for instance tending affectionately to a favorite plant soaking in the sun up against the car window.
But steering this narrative vehicle off course, is a story full of far fetched elements that opt for contrived, often way too coincidental shortcuts. And upstaging the striking imagery, which in contrast takes its time lyrically breezing through. Such as a predictable romance involving Finnish immigrant pianist Juliana (Milka Ahlroth), who always seems to materialize just in time all around town when the filmmaker is in need of a some sparks to fly for Fred. And with Fred himself single-handedly overpowering and driving off the entire gang of thugs terrorizing and nearly killing Cathal, despite being seriously over the hill and out of shape.
All of which tends to infuse Parked with the visceral impact of raw truth when it’s a question of Meaney’s destitute main character on the inside looking out at a callous world. But as for the outside looking in director’s point of view, there’s a distinct sense of a second hand experience only heard about from a comfortable distance, than in any way felt or endured.
ADDICTED TO FAME
Making a full length feature movie about a movie that’s already been made – and long ago relegated to the straight to DVD graveyard – may not sound like the most enticing hook to lure the potato-prone public off their couches and into theaters. But David Giancola and his Anna Nicole Smith vanity production Addicted To Fame is bent on doing just that. As if the last word has not yet been spoken about his magnificent flop – and if he has his way, may never be.
Fanatically into making a sci-fi spoof that would grab attention in a B movie crop already fairly crowded with them, Giancola coaxed Anna Nicole Smith to sign up for his wacky production Illegal Aliens,’ in his search for ‘a goofy blonde character.’ And what would be her last movie just before her death. But in a possible case of inmates taking over the asylum, Smith ended up turning the tables and essentially buying control of the film, impetuous script revisions and all, by investing in it.
Teaming up chaotically with some other selectively assembled bimbos on board, including porn actress Chyna, Smith orders around the filmmakers like demeaned house servants, forgets her own lines that she inserted into the script herself, and at one point ecstatically sticks a giant humming lavender vibrator in her ear. Which is not at all as funny as it may sound, repeatedly crossing that fine line between comedy and cruelty. Think that notorious courtroom video of the dissipated woman child self-destructing on camera in real time just before her death, turned into a full length feature.
Aptly characterized as compulsion cinema as much as a movie within a movie disaster documentary, Addicted To Fame never quite pinpoints who that addict may be. Whether referring to that strictly famous for being famous deceased former Playboy bunny Smith. or maybe the tabloid gorging audience who can never get enough – witness the latest pretty sad headline news about Smith’s surviving six year old daughter and apparent potential goldmine Dannielynn, being essentially pimped out by her father Larry Birkhead as a child model.
On the other hand, there’s the director of Addicted To Fame himself, who stuck with Smith as the celebrity star of his movie, even as her mental and physical deterioration from drugs on the set accelerated. Kind of like photojournalists notorious for eagerly taking graphic photos of victims gravely wounded or being murdered, and never thinking to drop the camera to help.
So how much are attention addict Giancola and Anna Nicole Smith alike as they weirdly bond away in his movie? Probably enough for a sequel concept. Though Giancola as the last man standing (everybody else either died or left the business) was shrewd enough to fool-proof his production with deliberate self-parody.
And thereby supposedly immunizing his own sense of worth, or not, from any onslaught of public ridicule. A consciously fortified state of mind achieved which Smith, despite appearing to giddily go along with the flow of her own dehumanization as a woman, could not.