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The Delicate Art of Parking (2003)

by on 2010/08/07

You know that feeling you get when you return to your car to find a parking ticket coiled like a rattlesnake under your windshield wiper? That mix of sucker-punch-to-the-stomach outrage and well, just plain old rage? The makers of The Delicate Art of Parking weave this mundane First World agony into fine silken threads of comedy gold.

This was the second time Hacker Renders and I viewed this 2003 mockumentary, motivated this time by our deep affection — bordering on life-altering addiction — to the Canadian TV series Corner Gas. Like The Delicate Art of Parking, the Saskatchewan TV comedy series about not a lot (going on) also featured the work outstanding Canadian actors Nancy Robertson and Fred Ewanuick.

The action of the film starts at the impound lot (the impenetrable fortress of suburbia: Simpsons). A documentary filmmaker Lonny Goosen (Dov Tiefenbach) has an axe to grind — he’s a man with more than $2,000 in unpaid parking fines and a more than a little animosity towards parking enforcement. An unrepentant repeat offender, Goosen cajoles his buddy and buddy’s Russian cousin Olena (played by the impossibly beautiful Diana Pavlovská ) to create a guerilla documentary/raging polemic about the injustices of Vancouver parking enforcement (and um, loan him some cash to get his car out of impound).

Sputtering enraged questions at the ‘man on the street’, Goosen captures such vox populi gems such as “all metre readers should be lined up and shot.” Despite Goosen’s wild-eyed adversarial stance against parking enforcement officers, he manages to wheedle his way inside their world through a happenstance encounter with affable giant and tow truck driver Jerome Huot (Tony Conté). In one of the most charming performances in a movie of charming performances, Jerome (think: Baloo from Jungle Book) rattles off a series of Québécois-accented tow truck truisms that include: “you think coming back to a ticket is bad, think about coming back to no car” as he gleefully hoists up a car bound for the impound lot.

With exuberant fondness, Jerome introduces Goosen to the “Wayne Gretzky of ticketing” and his best friend, Grant (Ewanuick). Grant is the very definition of earnest with huge coke-bottle glasses, an owl-like stare, a single spartan bed and almost Zen-like acceptance of the hatred his job generates. The Dudley Do-Right of downtown parking metres, Grant truly, truly, truly believes in his vocation, saying that it “contributes to the overall better good of society.” Sharing the teachings of his friend and mentor Murray, Grant suggests that all of the abuse and pounding his daily rounds yield is worth it because the city is a “beating heart” and Grant “keep(s) the arteries clear.”

Kind-hearted, long-suffering Grant believes, as only the true zealot can, that Goosen shares his fascination with parking enforcement and invites the crew to the inner sanctum of their world, The Intersection Club, for an even more intimate view of the parking enforcement community.

There, hard-bitten metre maid Harriet (Nancy Robertson) delivers one of the funniest moments of the film, propositioning the filmmaker with the offer of a special “all-night parking spot.” As the crew is brought deeper into the community, tragedy strikes, the team learns that parking guru Murray has been allegedly mowed down by an irate driver and is in hospital in a life-threatening coma.

As the characters come to crisis over Murray’s accident and more concerningly, Murray’s erratic behaviour leading up to it, Goosen suffers a very belated crisis of conscience and helps Grant unravel a conspiracy that threatens the entire parking community.

While offering more squirmingly uncomfortable moments than an attempt to parallel park on a busy urban street in front of a pack of swearing bikers, this movie also makes you think about the importance of ideas and belief systems, and reminds you that any job worth doing is worth doing well.

As the movie tells us at one point, anything is interesting when you look at it closely enough. This painfully funny film delivers on that aphorism. Give this charming, wise Canadian film some of your spare change and extra time.

* * * *

14A for language, substance abuse

87 minutes

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