From the heart of the BFI Southbank comes another small, intimate documentary revolving around the extended family at the heart of an unlikely institution (‘family’ is perhaps an inaccurate term: the fraternal bonds run far deeper here than in Circo). The Parking Lot Movie is director Meghan Eckman’s new film, which takes a deceptively simple concept and simply runs with it.
The Corner Parking Lot is a Virginia institution, established by owner Dennis Farina in 1986 and running ever since. Farina’s employees, the gatekeepers of the lot, are largely recruited from the nearby university: over-educated, under-stimulated anthropology graduates holding various grudges against the world. It is the tension between their service sector jobs and first-rate education which delivers many of the funniest moments in TPLM, and essentially gives the film a reason to be – the film rises and falls on the magnetic, charismatic appeal of these humble slackers, proud and defiant in the face of adversity.
Like a real-life Clerks, TPLM gives a soapbox to its embittered cast and lets them discuss the unique trials involved in looking after a parking lot, a task not as simple as it appears. Drunken fratboys, fratgirls, teenage vandals and under-medicated SUV drivers all test the patience of the films contributors. But unlike Kevin Smith’s 1994 film, the audience isn’t burdened by the cast’s overbearing angst or sketchy acting talents. There’s huge enjoyment to be had in simply listening to their thoughts on life, and it’s a testament to the attendant’s likability when we’re simply given the chance to hear them talk about life, love and the pursuit of wealth. The film’s coda, which reveals the occupations that the crew have moved on to since their time at the parking lot, is guaranteed to warm your heart.