One of the best movies about the American Drive-In that I’ve possibly ever seen, “At the Drive-In,” is a wonderful documentary directed by Alexander Monelli that embraces and celebrates everything that’s so enchanting about the drive-in. It’s also a testament to the love and commitment that movie buffs are capable of, even in the face of financial dire straits and a changing climate of pop culture. Drive-Ins have become something of a memory of American pop culture and in the new generation is a community that has struggled to stay alive. One of the few standing is the Mahoning Drive-In in Pennsylvania.
Every season the crew of loyal film fans and workers spend their days at the Mahoning preparing for a new wave of movie fans anxiously checking out their newest features. But as Hollywood has changed from reel to digital projection, the owner and his loyal group have to figure out how to keep attendance going now that they’re incapable of buying an expensive digital projector of their own. “At the Drive-In” is a movie I could have sat through for at least four hours. Although it’s only eighty minutes in length, Alexander Monelli’s film is so engaging and compelling that you just want to see more of these people, and how much they love what they do. One of the more fascinating aspects is how the view the Mahoning Drive-In not just as a place of employment, but as a second home.
Many of the workers drive hours just to work in the Drive-In and even more so, they work for free most of the time. Their passion for the Drive-In and their reluctance to see their favorite place die inspires them to nurture their favorite movie shrine with the utmost love and sincerity. Thankfully while the film could very well be a silly exploitative take on fandom, Alexander Monelli instead tells the tale of love of film, and how these people are working hard to stay afloat in a world that’s finding less and less reason to go the Drive-In. Monelli digs deep in to their lives, exploring how hard they work, how much they sacrifice, and even the fact that many of the loyal employees even sleep over night just to get an early start on fixing the theater.
“At the Drive-In” is such a wonderful look at the passion of these film buffs, and how they work tirelessly to create more valuable memories for themselves and patrons from around the state. Alexander Monelli’s documentary is an absolute masterpiece, an engrossing and endearing tale of the magic of film, and the community experience of film going. It’s a documentary I strongly recommend for any and all movie buffs.
Now On DVD from MVD Entertainment.