Claire (Samantha Morton) is a Los Angeles parking-enforcement officer who has to put up with all sorts of abuse while doling out tickets. She’s a quiet, almost creepily reserved woman who lives with her physically disabled, mute mother (Teri Garr). One day Claire meets fellow officer Jay (Jason Patric), a foul-mouthed and abusive type who is estranged from his rock-star son, and spends his downtime trolling porn sites on the Internet.
Jay develops a thing for Claire, and over the course of several weeks he keeps pressing his attentions on her, even though it’s pretty obvious to anyone with any kind of relationship radar that this is one guy you should stay far, far away from. But Claire, who’s desperate for attention, and is easily manipulated, finds it impossible to refuse Jay’s come-ons. Quicker than you can say “Danger dead ahead,” she’s going out with him, sleeping with him, even wearing the spangly “fuck-me” bikini Jay buys for her to fulfill one of his fantasies.
Relationships like this can’t possibly grow and survive, so it’s no surprise that this one comes to a crashing end when Jay’s abusive behavior becomes too much for even Claire to take. By this time, however, the inevitability of the situation, and the lack of sympathy for the characters, makes Expired something of a slog. About halfway into the film, the desire to smack Claire and wake her from her somnolent state becomes almost overwhelming. That, and a number of ludicrous scenes—such as one where Claire goes to a Christmas party, leaving her mom, who has just died, face down in a bowl of mashed potatoes—do not do much for the film’s credibility.
Not that you can fault the actors. Morton gives a realistic performance as the wallflower, and Patric is absolutely scary as a man who cannot control his inner demons. Plus Garr, who is showing the effects of her battle with MS (her right arm is paralyzed), is excellent in a dual role as the mute mom and her crazy sister. But writer-director Cecilia Miniucchi’s screenplay is an unwieldy blend of pathos and unsettling moments, which become increasingly uninteresting as the film trudges to its dreary conclusion. Fact is, we’ve seen doomed and abusive relationships like this in any number of films, and except for a trifecta of solid performances, Expired adds nothing new to the mix.