Expired might have been subtitled “When Weirdoes Date,” as Cecilia Miniucchi’s film concerns the rocky courtship between two socially awkward meter maids, Claire (Samantha Morton) and Jay (Jason Patric). Their relationship is a thing of ungainly codependence, with Claire an insecure wallflower living with her wheelchair-bound mom (Teri Garr) who sadly wonders if having something is better than nothing, and Jay a bipolar prick compulsively driven to heap both praise and abuse upon his shy girlfriend. Emotional investment in this unhealthy romance is aided rather than impeded by an intentional mood of off-center strangeness, which consistently blends heartfelt pathos and caustic humor. Claire is the film’s heart and Jay is its nasty, volatile funny bone, and Morton’s pensive, heart-on-sleeve emotiveness and Patric’s brusque cruelty ably complement each other, even as their unusually cadenced dialogue and misfit behavior—as well as the director’s preference for focusing on kitsch and peculiar faces—occasionally recalls the worst of Napoleon Dynamite. In a mesmerizing performance, Patric gets surprisingly robust mileage from his character’s sentence-to-sentence vacillation between amorous warmth and unfiltered assholishness. His Jay is the prototypical abusive boyfriend, and even with Miniucchi’s habit of periodically delivering easy jabs at his expense (such as his self-gratification to Internet porn), Patric’s portrait of masculine rancidness elicits uneasy laughs via the bizarre juxtaposition of his put-downs (about, among other things, Claire’s chubbiness) and out-of-left-field braggadocio (“I’m a really good dancer”). Locating both Claire’s loneliness and Jay’s anger as partial outgrowths of their detested profession handing out parking meter violation tickets, Expired coasts along on a distinctively odd wavelength. And if its treatment of peripheral figures (namely, Garr’s invalid) seems more mean than mirthful, with Miniucchi occasionally dipping into self-consciously expressive indie close-ups of her leads and dangling Christmas lights, her dysfunctional protagonists remain engaging (and, in Claire’s case, affecting), allowing the film’s idiosyncratic vibe to get under the skin.
- MCR Releasing
- 104 min
- Cecilia Miniucchi
- Cecilia Miniucchi
- Samantha Morton, Jason Patric, Teri Garr, Illeana Douglas
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