It’s an incontrovertible truth that Samantha Morton is among the best actresses in the world, a fact somehow aided and not obscured by her insistence on playing, from Sweet and Lowdown to Mister Lonely, the same character: the innocent, all-forgiving punching bag of a self-obsessed, self-hating asshole. And in Cecilia Miniucchi’s Expired, Morton once again owns this self-abnegation, here in its most socially and municipally abject form: that of the meter maid. Reluctantly writing up parking tickets to the ever irate and incredulous population of Santa Monica, Morton’s Claire, in voice over, identifies herself as “one of the most hated people in the world.” A brutally funny and relentlessly squirm-inducing film about neuroses, loneliness, and love, Expired posits the traffic cop as the nadir of self-esteem and the constant recipient of abuse and disgust.
“You always live in fear and guilt,” notes Claire, whose personal life seems no more fruitful and rewarding than her career. At the end of a day apologetically dispensing parking tickets and sweetly bearing insults, Claire returns home to the apartment she shares with her mother (played with a warm familiarity by the great Teri Garr, working industriously around her quite apparent multiple sclerosis). Decorated with a saccharine taste for competing floral patterns and dollar-store Christmas lights, their apartment is a comfy haven from the outside world, but a lonely one in which the telephone is only ever used to order Chinese food.