The Parking Lot Movie

The Parking Lot Movie

The Parking Lot Movie (Directors: Meghan Eckman and Christopher Hlad): The Corner Parking Lot is loc­ated in Charlottesville, Virginia and, over the years, it’s developed into some­what of a local legend, based on the oddball cast of char­ac­ters who have inhab­ited its employ­ment ranks. The 2-acre plot of land, com­prised of little more than asphalt and a run-down, com­ic­ally small park­ing attend­ant booth, sur­roun­ded by rail­road tracks and the unsightly backs of build­ings, becomes the unlikely site for an exam­in­a­tion of class struggle, cap­it­al­ism, human inter­ac­tion, and con­sumer cul­ture.

Such rumin­a­tions in The Parking Lot Movie come cour­tesy of the fringes-of-soci­ety, over­qual­i­fied work­ers who man the booth. “Man” is the appro­pri­ate verb, too, as there isn’t a single woman to be found among the almost two dozen cur­rent and former employ­ees who were inter­viewed. As first-time dir­ector Meghan Eckman explains in the film’s press kit, this was a reflec­tion of the fact that so few women have worked at the lot since it opened in 1986. A female per­spect­ive would have been wel­come, if only to pos­sibly break up the con­stant stream of bit­ter, self-right­eous, smug view­points from the male inter­viewees, which tend to blur together into a thick fog of neg­at­iv­ity that, frankly, just wore me down.

Most of the employ­ees inter­viewed are uni­ver­sity gradu­ates and under­gradu­ates who majored in fields like philo­sophy, reli­gion, and anthro­po­logy, and the nature of the job affords them plenty of time to reflect on how the park­ing lot is really a micro­cosm of soci­ety. Their the­or­ies and obser­va­tions are highly intel­lec­tual, but bal­anced with hos­tile humour usu­ally rooted in barbs aimed at the lot’s more annoy­ing cli­en­tele. The inten­ded laughs from the screen­ing audi­ence were delivered reg­u­larly, but I must admit to sit­ting in my seat stone-faced for most of the movie.

Working a lowly ser­vice sec­tor job like theirs has enabled the lot attend­ants to see human beha­viour oper­at­ing at exas­per­at­ingly defi­cient levels, which are recalled with numer­ous examples involving boor­ish drunken frat boys and sor­or­ity girls, SUV drivers, Prius own­ers, and a steady sup­ply of con­des­cend­ing (and occa­sion­ally law-break­ing) cus­tom­ers. I have no doubt it must be a frus­trat­ing job to do, but the attend­ants’ vit­riol is delivered with such an elit­ist, snarky tone that it wasn’t dif­fi­cult to quickly find most of them as annoy­ing as the easy tar­gets they were cri­ti­ciz­ing. Also, con­sider the numer­ous state­ments with regard to being “gate­keep­ers” such as these: “In the park­ing lot we were dynamos. Whirlwinds. We were rulers. We had com­plete autonomy”, as well as “Did we play God in the park­ing lot? I guess we did play God”. And the film’s tagline is “It’s not just a park­ing lot, it’s a battle with human­ity”. Despite the tongue-in-cheek deliv­ery, it all becomes just a little much.

Eckman shot the movie with a 4:3 aspect ratio to mimic the claus­tro­phobic con­di­tions of sit­ting in the cramped attend­ant booth, which adds to the low-budget look of the movie and makes it feel even more like a real life Clerks (with a little less exist­en­tial philo­soph­iz­ing). She might also want to revisit her decision to end the doc­u­ment­ary with a pain­ful five minute rap video involving some of the attend­ants — it feels ama­teur­ish and jar­ringly out-of-step with the rest of the movie.

Official site of the film



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2 Responses to The Parking Lot Movie

  1. Simon/Ripley says:

    Good review, then. Good thing I had zero expect­a­tions of this movie to begin with.

  2. Jay Kerr says:

    Wow! You sure can pick’em! Fortunately I haven’t exper­i­enced any­thing quite this bad so far this year.

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