Elevate Difference


Trailerpark is a student-made feature length production by Ohio University’s MDIA 419 course. It is based on the book of the same title by award–winning author Russell Banks.

Despite an initial comment by another viewer that the sound quality was not good, we both agreed that visually, the film had much to offer, and that story-wise, there was a lot of (mostly) intriguing information to absorb. The first half of the film takes us directly to the trailer park, and right into the chaotic dynamics of the characters’ lives. The park itself is quaint; it sits beside a tranquil lake and the trailers range from tidy and finely decorated to decrepit bordering on vacant, or at the very least neglected. This early observation helped me to understand one of the subplots that emerges later in the film: the park “landlord,” Marcelle, is attempting to fill all of the trailers in the park. Meanwhile, she is forced to hound some tenants for their monthly rent. Ultimately and unfortunately, unpaid rent ends up being one of the least pressing problems on Marcelle’s growing shit list.

In these early stages, the relationships between characters are not clear, and honestly, some relationships aren’t really explained until the very end of the film. For me, as a viewer who has not read the novel by Banks, this was a source of frustration. I found myself asking, “What’s with the looks between Doreen and Terry?” “Why is Knox spying on Flora?” One of the characters even took the words right out of my mouth when he asked his neighbor, “How come you never work?” Perhaps a viewer who has read the novel that the film is based upon would be amused by this deliberate (?) withholding of information. Sometimes it is fun to see relationships unfold. But most of the time, it’s helpful to know why you are supposed to care about what is happening between particular characters.

However slow to reveal themselves, by the end of the film I had a solid idea of the motivations behind certain people. I had a better idea about their individual stories. And by having this information, I was able to care about the various woes that surrounded them. And although there were fairly long portions of dialogue with little to no action, the trailer park wasn’t a quiet place. Theft, fire, kindness, murder, and a winning lottery ticket make their way into the residents’ lives as well.

Trailerpark was a good film, but it could have offered me more reasons as to why I should be invested in the plight of the characters. Perhaps if there were fewer characters in the film, more time could have been devoted to assessing these characters’ psychological hang-ups, previous relations with each other, or explaining how they ended up in this particular place. At one point, Flora defends a very questionable practice to her neighbors, telling them “What might look worse and worse for you, might look better for me.” For those who have read the novel, the delayed and somewhat chaotic cohesion of characters may make the film better, more intriguing, and ultimately more enjoyable. For viewers like me, who desperately needed some kind of Trailerpark compass at the film’s outset, it made my experience worse.

Written by: Rachel Muzika Scheib, January 8th 2011