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Driving Lessons (2006 PG-13)

June 27, 2007

I like this poster.

Cast

I watched Driving Lessons because it starred Rupert Grint. I wanted to see what kind of an actor he was outside of the world of Harry Potter. I was definitely not disappointed with Grint’s performance. His character was drastically different than his Ron Weasley, and he did a fine job.

The cast also includes Julie Walters, who plays Mrs. Weasley in the Potter films, Laura Linney, Nicholas Farrell, Michelle Duncan, and Jim Norton who also had a bit part in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Julie Waters almost walked away with the show. In that regards and a few others, the movie reminded me of Maggie Smith‘s Keeping Mum. I thought I’d reviewed that film too, but I guess I haven’t… yet.

Laura Linney is a fine actress, but regardless of what she is in she kind of bugs me. That, and the fact that I know she’s an American, irritated me in this movie. Her accent wasn’t horrid, but why not just get an English actress? I think it’s far easier for English actors and actresses to do American accents than vice versa. I’m not sure if that’s a justified criticism, but it’s a pet peeve of mine anyway.

Cast = 17

Soundtrack

The soundtrack for this dramedy was nearly perfect. They used a liberal amount of Sufjan Stevens who is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists. His music works particularly well for movies, and dramedies especially. My only complaint with the soundtrack is that they could, and should, have used Stevens more. They already used two songs at several points in the movie. Why not a few more?

Instead, they incorporated a few other artists like Nick Drake and Ben Folds. Salsa Celtica was used a couple of times too, but they were incorporated into the film to some extent.

Soundtrack = 18

Quote/Catch Phrase

Julie Walters had me cracking up throughout the film, and I suppose that now is as good a time as any to mention that they drop the F-bomb several times in the film. I think the best line of the film sums up one of its themes, and was uttered by Walters while looking at a particularly beautiful landscape in Scotland, “Life is confusing. Just when we think it’s all over it throws a view like this at us, and we don’t know where we are.” On its own it may not sound like much, but it was a particularly poignant scene, and in that context had more impact.

I think there is potential for more common quotability given several viewings, but either way that phrase works pretty well.

Quote/Catch Phrase = 17

Story

Driving Lessons is another in a long list of films that tries to capture a glimpse of the growing up process, or more specifically, coming to grips with some of the nonsense life throws at you. Fortunately, Driving Lessons took a good approach. Making the film a dramedy allowed Walters and Grint to incorporate some of their acting skills, and gave the audience a chance to breath now and then. Which isn’t to say that the film was as emotionally draining as Schindler’s List, but some aspects of the story can be fairly weighty.

Grint’s character is almost 18, and lives with his vicar father, his adulterous mother, and a psychotic, cross-dressing, vehicular menace of an old man.

Grint’s father is doing the best he can, but finds himself emotionally distant from his family. He knows, or at least suspects his wife of cuckolding him, yet for a myriad of reasons not discussed in the film, he stays. At several times in the film he makes a bit of an effort to draw Grint’s character back into his life, but doesn’t quite get there.

Grint’s mother is a nice piece of work, and my ability to stomach Laura Linney was again put to the test. Not only is she adulterous, but she does her Christian duty by acting like she’s God’s gift to the world. Her motivation for being a “good” person is derived solely from her desire to maintain a good reputation in public. She invites an old, crazed man into the home supposedly to help him rehabilitate. The old man had killed his wife by running her over with his car. Eventually, he snaps completely and starts to wear women’s clothing. Grint’s mom also forces her son to take part in some rather silly plays, and eventually tries to prevent him from seeing his new mentor in Julie Walter’s character.

Walter’s character is an aged actress whose career has faded away over the years. She hires Grint as an assistant, and gives him a hard time at first. Slowly, they learn more about each other and grow to love each other. She helps to foster his love in poetry, and to open him up a bit emotionally and socially. He helps her live life again, and becomes the son she always wanted. The relationship isn’t all peaches and cream, as she manipulates him into taking her to Scotland for a rare job. She is to perform a reading for a literature festival, and he is to drive and be her muse (she gets too ruffled to perform without him around). The problem is, he is just a student driver, and she has never driven.

During the course of their journey, he becomes a better driver, has a fling with a lovely Scottish girl, and they finally come to terms with each other in as honest a way as they can. His mother gets extremely upset that her boy is gallivanting around the countryside with a wicked actress. When Grint and Walters get finally get back, everything comes to a head.

Story = 16

Rewatchability

I think the rewatchability of the film is hindered a great deal by Laura Linney’s character. She does a good job of making the audience loathe her, and in fact there is little if any reason to like her. Otherwise, I think the movie has some potential for quotability and therefore some potential for wanting to see the film again. Not countless times, but perhaps a couple more viewings.

Rewatchability = 14

Total Score = 82

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