Film

Perfect attendants

The Delicate Art of Parking ranks somewhere in the middle on the laugh meter

Zeroing in on the modern city’s most banal object of scorn and fury,
Trent Carlson’s The Delicate Art of Parking is a faux documentary that,
in the comedic spirit of taking silly things seriously, ushers the viewer
into the hidden world of Vancouver’s marginalized and martyred parking
attendants. If you’re not above watching Cops or involuntarily leaping
out off your chair for a hockey fight, the chance to watch parking attendants
getting repeatedly screamed at or physically assaulted by the general public
(as promised in the film’s trailer) will no doubt appeal to you. But
wisely—since the gags, pathos and violence can’t possibly sustain
itself for feature length (or even the first 15 minutes)—Carlson and
co-screenwriter Blake Corbet have cooked up a mystery subplot to give The
Delicate Art of Parking some shape and intrigue. The end result is patchy and
occasionally coasts on the quirky mock-doc conventions developed by
Christopher Guest in Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show and A Mighty Wind, but
some of the highlights are pretty memorable and endearingly Canadian. The
film’s protagonist is documentary filmmaker Lonnie (Dov Tiefenbach of
Flower and Garnet and Get Over It), a disgruntled “multiple
offender” with three grand in outstanding parking tickets who begins
his investigation into parking attendant culture out of sheer spite. His main
question: how these people can go to work every morning knowing that
they’re harbingers of misery and debt, hated figures clothed in
uniforms and stripped of sympathy who do nothing but piss people off all day
long. The irony is that Lonnie, who repeatedly manipulates his subjects in
order to sex up his movie, is actually less likable and more exploitative of
human folly than the meter people he despises. (And there’s something
pretty satisfying about watching Lonnie be so self-serving with his handling
of others’ misery in the wake of some of the cringe-inducing moments of
Bowling for Columbine—the ones where Michael Moore’s camera
lingers superfluously upon him giving hugs to people in pain.) At first all
Lonnie’s biggest discovery is Grant (Fred Ewanuick), a lonely,
supremely anal-retentive nerd of an attendant who believes in the higher
purpose of parking control so religiously that he’s more than willing
to proselytize and inadvertently embarrass himself before Lonnie and his crew
of two. But quickly—and rather conveniently—Lonnie lucks out when
the making of his movie coincides with the sudden, controversial running down
of parking attendant and self-styled guru Murray, a 41-year-old who lives
with his mother, has parking meters for bedposts and has developed a
Buddhism-inspired theory of offender anger dissipation that Grant believes
will revolutionize the industry and increase attendant safety. Details of
Murray’s attack become confused, a conspiracy seems afoot and Lonnie
and his new friends must come to terms with their mixed feelings about their
opposing positions on parking enforcement if they are to uncover the truth.
The Delicate Art of Parking desperately needs its narrative framework to hold
it together, but the film’s best moments still arise from incidentals
and goofy details. The scene where Lonnie and crew get into the Intersection,
an exclusive parking attendant nightclub, doesn’t have the charm or
payoff you might hope for, but there are some pleasures to be had in
Grant’s anger management training sessions with his mostly very tense
colleagues. Ewanuick carries the film with his dutiful, sweet conviction and
avoidance of cheap laughs, but the film’s single most appealing
performance is probably delivered by Tony Conte as Jerome, an extremely
good-natured transplanted Quebecker who drives a tow truck, falls for
Lonnie’s Russian soundperson and is willing to do anything to help his
pals. His smile consumes his big face so fully that it’s difficult to
avoid going along with him. V The Delicate Art of Parking Directed by Trent
Carlson • Written by Trent Carlson and Blake Corbet • Starring Dov
Tiefenbach and Fred Ewanuick • Opens Fri, May 14

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