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I just saw this movie at the Tribeca Film Festival and i have to say that i thought it was amazing. The combination of humor and sincerity really made the movie worthwhile. The movie was about a seventeen year-old boy whose mother and father are very religious. The seventeen year old, Ben, decides to work for a retired actress who teaches him about girls and driving and life. It is very comical and touching. I honestly have to say that it is now one of my favorite movies. I recommend this movie to anyone and everyone. If you didn't catch one of the showings at the film festival, it's supposed to come out in theaters later in the year. Please go see it! It is a great film.
A British twist on Harold and Maude, Driving Lessons features a reined-in Rupert Grint and an over-the-top Julie Walters. While it is true that Grint is stone-faced like a redheaded Benjamin Braddock for the first half of the movie, it does not deter from the quirky family film--there are things going on that are out of his character's experience that would create a shell-shocked reaction. The chemistry between Walters and Grint carries the film, though Laura Linney's hard work to make her written stereotype human is also notable. These performances combined with a fun poppy soundtrack with artists like Sufjan Stevens, John Renbourn and Salsa Celtica make this kids popcorn flick worth a Saturday afternoon.
I only heard about Driving Lessons through the ITV adverts, and to be honest, I didn't know how much I would like it. I switched on the TV last night and was totally surprised. Driving Lessons is a modest, simple film which draws you in right from the start. Rupert Grint plays the part of socially awkward teenager Ben brilliantly. He's definitely one to look out for in the future. Dame Eve Walton is played by the fabulous Julie Walters. I loved the simple plot and the way the actors portrayed their characters with great sensitivity. The highlight of the film, for me was Evie's rather colourful poem. It shows how friendships can form between the most unlikely pairs. In my opinion, watching Driving Lessons is a great way to spend 2 hours. The scenery was also striking, especially the countryside. Anyone who can call this sparkling comedy forgettable, I strongly disagree with
Growing up is maybe a bit like learning to drive: lots of things you're
not meant to do - at least when those in authority are watching.
Staying on the straight and narrow can be difficult, especially if your
teachers are awful.
Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series) has had the misfortune to be born into a family with a preacher as a dad and a self-righteously over-bearing mother (Laura Linney). He breaks out of his imposed cocoon with the help of a retired actress (Julie Waters) and achieves his rite of passage. Driving Lessons is highly polished mainstream comedy that will keep you snickering under your breath all the way through your bible class. A large amount of f-words (and a UK 15 certificate) sadly prevent any 14yr-olds that haven't learnt to bluff effectively from seeing it. . . . oh, and there's a nice bit of sex, courtesy a good Scottish lass.
Ben answers an advert for a young man to help a retired actress in the house and garden. The eccentric Evie (Julie Walters) has soon whisked him off camping, and then taken him to Scotland where he Become A Man. He has to get rid of what Evie describes as the 'social autism' inculcated by his religious upbringing. His mum has been determinedly teaching Ben to drive (he fails his test) and things are not good in the parental marriage (but they are God's ambassadors and must show the world a smiling face). Ben learns that, "When the sh*t hits the fan, get a tent," although the road is long and sometimes hard. He also learns, through the power of impromptu drama and hard choices of conscience, that there is more to being a man than following the rules.
The road to and from Scotland is apparently a single track road that passes through such unlikely places Holyrood Park (which also just happens to have one of the best views of the city). But hey! The boy could have got lost! The whole movie has such lovable pacing and unpretentious detail that it is easy to forgive such quirks. The glimpse of the Edinburgh Festival, which is the biggest arts festival in the world, is achieved with remarkable panache. Evie and Ben arrive at the Caledonian Hotel and the Book Festival contact soon has him off to a nightclub and then her bed in the true spirit of Scottish hospitality. The soundtrack concocts a heady blend of Scottish folk, Salsa Celtica, Richard Thompson, Nick Drake and Chopin's First Nocturne in B flat Minor. Loosely based on the director's own experiences growing up as a vicar's son and working for Dame Peggy Ashcroft, his portrait of middle class London suburbia hits all the right notes: perfectly correct on the outside, and full of abnormally screwed up people behind the net curtains. He pokes fun at religion without ever causing offence and is supported by superb actors and a talented crew.
This is such a good movie that it is hard to say anything bad about it. Sadly the only flaw lies in the undeveloped substance of its central theme, meaning that Driving Lessons will be enjoyed to the hilt today, but too easily forgotten when its ideas are already second nature.
I saw this tonight with moderate expectations - if Tartan Films have
picked up on something and are releasing it the that's generally a good
sign, however I'm not normally a fan of Julie Walters, generally
disliking her comedy roles (sorry to any fans, but it's a personal
thing - I just don't find her funny in comedy).
This was magnificent though - a great performance by all, but Grint and Walters are exceptional! Plenty of laughs, plenty of pathos, great timing and a wonderfully paced film - such a coming of age film wouldn't normally be something I'd expect to like so much but I can't recommend this highly enough - and watch Rupert Grint as he matures into a fine fine actor.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I can't disagree with a previous comment that "Driving Lessons" is more
than a little twee, but one man's indictment is another's endorsement,
I suppose. In my book this film succeeds on pure charm, no small feat
I can't help but wish the story was a little less conventional given the amount of acting talent in it, but by the end the plot seems more like a backdrop for the character interactions anyway. Julie Walters' Dame Evie is a gloriously over the top and over the hill actress. Though Evie hasn't had steady work in years, it's unclear the last time she visited reality, if ever (think Edina from "AbFab" at 65, at one point she is even forced to come to grips with her kitsch-factor). Some may find her annoying, but I think that's the point, to emphasize just how much she pushes the reserved Ben's (Rupert Grint) buttons to force him out of his shell. Ben is equally isolated from reality, living his whole life under the thumb of his overly dependent mother, who Laura Linney manages to breath some life into, despite being a fairly one-dimensional character (ye olde overbearing religious mom). I was rather impressed with Rupert Grint who I found to give a very honest and believable performance (not to mention sweet as all get-out), I can't think of many teen actors today for whom I can say that.
The heart of the movie is what happens when Ben and Evie's worlds collide. At first Ben is understandably tentative, but also intrigued, as Evie is essentially the exact opposite of everything he's ever known. With the combination of Evie's persistence and Ben's helpful nature a genuine sweetness develops between them, culminating in an unlikely road trip that gives Ben his first real taste of independence.
The tone is consistently light even through a few brief melodramatic bits, but there was still a surprising amount of emotional resonance, a credit to the main actors. All in all I'd say that if you're willing to sit back and let yourself be charmed by some lovely performances, "Driving Lessons" shouldn't disappoint. However, if "cute" is not in your movie vocabulary, best to stay away.
One other minor note, the soundtrack features the music of Sufjan Stevens prominently, a nice touch.
Driving Lessons From the writer of the critically acclaimed films, Mrs.
Brown and Charlotte Gray, Jeremy Brock brings a touching heartfelt
dramedy starring Academy Award Nominees Julie Walters and Laura Linney
and from the Harry Potter series, Rupert Grint. The beautiful portrait
tells the story of Ben Marshall, (Rupert Grint) a seventeen year old
boy being held captive in the heart of his religiously neurotic mother
Laura (Laura Linney). After his school year ends he decides to take a
job with a clever, free-spirited, and "heavy on the bottle" retired
actress, Evie Walton (Julie Walters). The pair embarks upon wonderful
adventures from camping to walks around the block to the simple
conversations about life. Challenging the domineering mother, as well
as each other along the way, the two develop a beautiful bond that
revolutionizes both their lives.
The comedic elements are flawless and precise especially coming from the British veteran, Julie Walters. Brock uses his unique style to create an infamous and loving nature that first time directors could only dream. Directing comes naturally to Brock as he builds up stunning imagery that breaks the surfaces and plunges the viewer down into an overabundance of adoration and creation. Even the subtle score by unknown composers Clive Carroll and John Renbourn accentuate the tone and manner Brock had no trouble in generating.
Laura Linney is always making her mark in films as she does as "Laura." The bossy and overbearing mother is at times unbearable and with Linney at the helm of it we are engulfed into that persona. The complexity of her character couldn't have been more flawlessly portrayed by anyone else. Rupert Grint breaks away from "Ron Weasley" and tries on someone new. His performance is more responsive than loquacious but Grint gives us someone brand new to a child performance and the viewer gets to enjoy it. But the standout is coming from Oscar nominated actress Julie Walters who gives "Evie" a life of her own. Despite the role being clearly a leading one, Walters fairs better in the supporting category where I believe she can simply take home the prize. "Evie" is a mix of "Clementine Kruczynski" and "Mrs. Laura Henderson" with her free spirit and lovable persona. Hopefully her role will not go unnoticed this awards season.
Driving Lessons isn't an "out of this world" experience but a fine, enjoyable one that any viewer could just kick back and learn a little something about life, love, and friendship coming in the forms of the most beautiful colors and sizes.
"Driving Lessons" sees two middle class quintessential British families
meet head on, when Grint's character comes into contact with Evee,
(Walters), a slightly deranged out-of-touch actress with an ego. Grint
betrays his overpowering, and over-Christian mother, (Linney), and goes
off travelling with Evee to Scotland, to accompany her on a trip to
participate in a Poetry reading, something she claims could be her
last, due to an illness.
Grint's portrayal of a caged youngster, brainwashed by an overbearing, and even hypocritical mother, is the masterpiece of this film. His portrayal of a downtrodden teen in search of his true morals, and happiness, is captivating to watch unfold throughout. The film is sharply shot, and well paced, with very few moments leaving you tired, an achievement, particularly considering the nature of the plot. Walters really grabs hold of her character with both hands, and successfully brings the audience to her side of things, emphasising Linney's ironic immorality throughout. Her role in "Driving Lessons" is enjoyable and memorable in every sense.
The plot develops nicely, leaving the audience cheering on Grint as he chases back to Evee's place during his lunch break during his stint at a local bookshop to apologise for his wrongdoings. The values in the piece are continued and brought out thoroughly up until the final drag, in a very consistent way. The overbearing, (and relieving), main idea being that religion doesn't lead to happiness, and certainly doesn't lead to morality.
The audience are left sympathising with the radical but lovable Evee, with her and Grint making an irresistible partnership on the big screen, transferred directly from their debut in the "Harry Potter" series. Charismatic and beautiful acting together with a tight and fact paced script make this a must-see this Christmas.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I caught the first screening of Driving Lessons at the Tribeca Film Festival. Rupert Grint shows he can act past Harry Potter. Laura Linney is amazing as the overbearing mother. Julie Walters is hilarious as Dame Evie Walton, with a mouth worse than a sailor. I hope that this film is picked up by an American distributor so that everyone can see it. This film is not only about Driving Lessons, but life lessons. Ben (Rupert Grint) is torn between wanting to obey his overbearing mother and vicar father and wanting to live his own life. It's an amazing film, from an amazing director whose taken his own life and put it on the screen for everyone to see, and everyone who can, should.
I wasn't expecting much out of this movie and I was slapped in the face. Julie Walters, Rupert Grint, and Laura Linney perform wonderfully as the main characters in this movie. Any teenager can relate to parental control and the urge to come out as who you really are, which is basically what this movie is about. Ben (Rupert Grint) does this when he meets retired actress Evie (Julie Walters) and begins to express his ideas with words. He slowly but surely breaks out of his shell and becomes much less awkward. Each and every viewer feels the ups and downs of the movie and the theatre is filled with laughter 75% of the time. The film satisfies all, and I hope that soon it might be released in all US theatres, because many do not have the chance to see the film unless they live in big cities. It is a MUST see!
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