Well, whadya know? Sometimes, in the middle of
the zombie movies, torture porn, and lowbrow comedies, I actually get to
watch a good movie once in a while!
Wikipedia summarizes the film's storyline
perfectly, as follows:
"Based on the semi-autobiographical critically-acclaimed novel by the
late Stuart Browne, Dangerous Parking tells the story of Noah Arkwright, a
cult director in the indie film world, whose life is on a crash course,
with Noah steering himself towards his own destruction. Noah's life is one
of success - and excess. Everything - drink, drugs, girls, fame - that
Noah can get his hands on he wolfs down with an insatiable hunger.
Alcoholism and drug addiction have him firmly in their grasp - but Noah
has no interest in acknowledging either until Kirstin, a young alcoholic
who has 'seen the light', manages to convince Noah that he is heading for
destruction and sets him on the path to reclaim himself. With the help of
his best friend Ray, Noah attempts to right his ship - and when fate sends
him a guardian angel in the shape of cellist Clare Mathesson, Noah tries
even harder to shift his focus from self abuse to self preservation - and
on the road to selflessness.
And that is when Mother Nature deals him the cruelest blow of all."
That is a perfectly accurate rendering of the facts, but doesn't touch
on the tone of the film. You might expect heavy drama from the story of a
man who barely overcame substance abuse then had to face bladder cancer.
There is some of that, of course, but the approach of the film (and
presumably the eponymous novel, which I have not read) is to tell the
truth in all of its facets, per the tradition of the deathbed confession,
embellished only when it makes for a better story. The film is coarse,
refined, tender, raunchy, dramatic, hilarious, and sad. The lead character
is profane, sensitive, bitter, resigned, tender, cruel, brave, cowardly,
highbrow, lowbrow, and all brows in between. I've always hastened to point
out that the truth is overrated as movie material, but nothing makes a
better drama than the full, unspun truth, provided that it is used to tell
the story of somebody who is interesting to begin with. It's even better
when the subject of the film is funny, uninhibited, and horny!
I'd say this film nailed it.
The credit goes to Peter Howitt, who did it all. He adapted the novel
into a screenplay, directed the film, and starred in an performance of
emotional extremes. Actor Howitt seems to be channeling the spirit of the late
Richard Harris, coupling arrogant and cynical high tones with
introspective and sentimental low tones, all filtered through the humor of
the bottle. Howitt even did an extended hairless scene during the
character's chemotherapy and an extended full-frontal nude scene during a
lapse from sobriety. Talk about putting it all on the line for a project!
Howitt's total involvement is the key to the film, of course, but
a special nod also goes to Tom Conti as a doctor who comes off as stuffy,
condescending upper class twit, but nonetheless has a compassionate heart
hidden beneath his breezy pedantry and stiff upper lip, probably somewhere
between his jodhpurs and his riding crop.
The narrative technique of this film is as complicated as the tone
shifts. The scenes include a combination of (1) narration from some time
in the future, (2) the reality of the moment portrayed, and (3) the
character's fantasies during the moment portrayed. The presentation is
further complicated by flashbacks, flashbacks within flashbacks, and flash
forwards within flashbacks, so that it is not always clear when the
"present" is, and the precise order of events can be difficult to discern.
There are many films where that sort of jumble doesn't work at all, but
this is not one of them, for two reasons: first, the film is paced briskly
and is damned funny, so the humor carries the individual scenes even when
it is not clear how everything fits into the big picture; second, there is
a very good structural reason, one which I can't reveal, to justify the
narrator's having disguised the time and place from which he makes his
This film had me laughing out loud at times, and it also had me in
tears. It would be a powerful story even if it were totally concocted, but
it is made more poignant by the fact that it is more or less true. It is
so entertaining and engaging that I went to amazon.com and ordered the
book as soon as the movie's credits started rolling.