Expired with Director Cecilia Miniucchi

“Expired” is a comedy for everyone who has ever faced the nerve-wracking decision to continue or end a love affair.

The sight of a dark-suited municipal employee doling out parking violations stirs a primal hate in all but the most enlightened souls. The heroine of “Expired,” the meter maid Claire, knows it. The film revolves around Claire, a kind soul who resents having to enforce the law at all times, and Jay, an angry Traffic Officer who loves his job, it being the perfect outlet for his anger and frustrations.

Coming both from a place of despair and loneliness, Claire and Jay meet and engage in a tumultuous and twisted relationship, which will eventually teach them that love can spread magic seeds of redemption and hope, even in the most unlikely of souls. By the end, Claire is faced with the question of whether to engage or to run. Claire (two-time Oscar nominee Samantha Morton) is a kind-hearted meter maid in sunny Santa Monica who is sympathetic to the citizens she tickets. Jay (Jason Patric) is a brusque traffic-control officer whose job affords him the perfect outlet for his anger and frustrations. Although their personalities couldnt be more opposite, the colleagues feel a powerful mutual attraction and put aside their fears to embark on a tumultuous romantic relationship. All it will take to save themis a little change.

Samantha Morton, Jason Patric, Teri Garr and Illeana Douglas star in “Expired,” the first feature film written and directed by the documentary and music-video director Cecilia Miniucchi. The films producers are Jeffrey Coulter and Oscar winner Fred Roos (THE GODFATHER trilogy, LOST IN TRANSLATION). Antoni Stutz, Alexander Shing and Lawrence Wang are executive producers. The editors are Anne Goursaud, A.C.E. (CRIMES OF THE HEART, BRAM STOKERS DRACULA and THE OUTSIDERS), and Fritz Feick. Melitta Fitzer co-produced, and Coulter also composed the movies original score. “Expired” premiered to critical and audience acclaim in the American Spectrum section of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and was one of 83 world premieres selected from more than 3,287 feature films submitted to the festival.

Dual Role

Oscar nominee Teri Garr (“Tootsi”) plays the dual roles of Claires devoted mother and Aunt Tilde. Emmy nominee Illeana Douglas (Shark) portrays the friendly neighbor, Wilma. Encouraged to reach out from her sheltered existence, Claire agrees to a lunch date with her colleague Jay, a bachelor affected by the twin demons of loneliness and regret. Their first date reveals considerable differences in their temperaments, but Claire and Jay realize a relationship offers each of them a chance to emerge from their shells.

Celebration of Love Expired” is a celebration of love, said Miniucchi. I want to encourage people to leave their cocoons and feel pleasure, pain, laughter and anguish. Life is all about getting out there and living it. Not all opportunities for relationships are ultimately successful, but even challenging associations offer the opportunity for personal growth and self-awareness.

The idea for the film blossomed from an incident Miniucchi observed near her home in Santa Monica. I noticed a man with a very expensive car who was angry with a mild-mannered meter maid who had given him a ticket, she said. I immediately wondered how someone from a less affluent background feels when confronted by that kind of abuse. Then I remembered another traffic officer I knew who abused his authority. I thought, What if these two fell in love on the job The story slowly evolved. Can love save us Or at least affect us to the point of wanting to become a better person After researching the story and writing the screenplay in the summer of 2005, Miniucchi showed it to longtime colleague Jeffrey Coulter and mentor Fred Roos (one of Hollywoods most successful filmmakers, whose credits include a multitude of acclaimed studio as well as independent hits). Both men immediately pledged their help in getting the movie produced. The screenplay was widely admired in the entertainment industry and major actors asked to be considered for the starring roles of Claire and Jay. The script struck a chord with both sexes, said Coulter. After all, we can all relate to the humor and suffering engendered by romantic relationships.

After meeting with several accomplished candidates, the filmmakers decided that Samantha Morton and Jason Patric were best suited to play the characters. Both actors were delighted to find a screenplay that presented an offbeat love story with multi-faceted characters that avoided sentimentality and clichs.

Playing Average Person

The script was amazing, said Samantha Morton. Im thrilled I did this part. I liked that the character Claire was a kind, average person. More often than not, people want to put women on the screen who are victims or sexy in a derogatory way.

Morton added that Claire was not strictly defined by her job as a meter maid. It didnt matter to me what her profession was, she added. The character Claire isnt her job. In addition to finding the crew of EXPIRED to be the friendliest, most supportive crew Ive ever worked with, Morton was impressed with Miniucchis bold persona. I was impressed when she approached me directly to discuss my involvement with the film.

Patric was also delighted with the chance to play the complicated role of Jay. Hes got a lot of anger, said Patric. Life has passed him by because of the mistakes hes made.

Samantha Morton

Samantha is an incredible actress, a living sponge in touch with the depth and essence of all things, said director Miniucchi. Her multi-layered personality created a rainbow of emotions and expressions. Jason was given a difficult character to portray a sometimes challenging personality who shows flashes of compassion and generosity. Jay means well, but lacks the capabilities to be a truly loving partner. Claire sees a great human being under all the trouble and hopes her love can help bring about a change.

Morton and Patric showed tremendous commitment to their roles beginning on the first day of filming. Samantha and Jason were a constant delight on the set, added Cecilia. Both actors were dedicated, disciplined, punctual and totally prepared.

Using Steadicam

Miniucchi and director of photography Zoran Popovic shot the entire film using a Steadicam. I didnt want the scenes cut into little bits and pieces, said Miniucchi. I wanted to be free to see what the scene required, give the actors a chance to breathe, to move about and live the scene in a natural and honest way. We had takes where the whole scene plays and the camera follows.

A scenic valentine to Southern Californias beach communities, “Expired” was filmed in and around Santa Monica and Venice. The 25-day filming schedule began on February 20, 2006, and was followed by second-unit shooting. Locations were scattered around Santa Monica and Venice including the well-known One Life Market and Joes Diner, outside of which the incident that inspired the idea for the movie took place. The Aunt Tilde home and ensuing bar-visit scenes took place at locations in Pomona.

One of the highlights of the shoot was when famed filmmaker Lina Wertmuller visited the set. Miniucchi had first met Wertmuller in Rome when she was attending college. They happened to each have apartments in the same building and met during a fateful elevator ride. She saw I was interested in the movie business and invited me to help her out at Cinecitta. She was making CAMORRA: THE STORY OF STREETS AND DRUGS, starring Harvey Keitel and Angelina Molina. I began an apprenticeship with her, worked as an extra, and then she cast me in a role. Thats when I realized I wanted to be behind the camera, not in front of it.

Watching the intriguing interplay between Morton and Patric being filmed, Wertmuller was reminded of her battle-of-the-sexes comedy, “Swept Away,” which was released to worldwide acclaim in 1974. Wertmuller was delighted to find that her former protg was now a skillful director in her own right.

After completing the film, a rough cut of “Expired” was submitted to the Sundance Film Festival, and the filmmakers were elated when the selection committee voiced its approval. The festivals Caroline Libresco calls the movie a small miracle. Samantha Morton and Jason Patric bring naturalism and gentle irony to characters who, when confronted with the possibility of closeness and sex, attempt to overcome paralyzing fear in completely disparate ways.

Cecilia Miniucchi and her actors never shrink from Claire and Jays raw or inelegant moments nor do they stray from tracing the subtle evolution of a relationship variously shaded with perversity, generosity, misunderstanding and tenderness. Mining the comedy and pathos inherent in the foibles of damaged characters, as well as the excruciating qualities of love, Expired offers searing insight into the complex mechanisms that obstruct human intimacy.