DRIVING LESSONS is a little film that sneaks up on you. What at first seems to be a bit of fluffy nonsense comedy British style is at its base a very fine story about coming of age and the needs for significant friendship of both the young and the elderly. Writer Jeremy Brock ('Mrs. Brown', 'Charlotte Gray', 'The Last King of Scotland') here directs his own screenplay and the result is a cohesive, progressively involving tale filled with fascinating and diverse characters, each performed by sterling actors.
Ben Marshall (Rupert Grint, standing firmly on his own as a developing actor post 'Harry Potter' series) is a quiet, plain little poetic seventeen-year-old living with his bird watching Vicar father (Nicholas Farrell) and his obsessive compulsive, rigid, evangelical do-gooder mother (Laura Linney) in a home where 'needy people', such as the murderous cross-dressing Mr. Fincham (Jim Norton), take precedence over family matters: the mother is by the way having an affair with priest Peter (Oliver Milburn), using Ben as her cover!
Sad Ben is among other things attempting to learn to drive a car. His mother is a poor teacher and decides he needs professional lessons AND needs to get a job to help pay for poor Mr. Fincham's needs. Ben follows an ad and meets Dame Eve Walton (Julie Walters), an elderly has-been actress who is as zany as any character ever created. She hires Ben and the fireworks begin. Through a series of incidents, including a camping trip Evie demands they take, the two learn life's lessons missing from each other's natures: Ben learns self respect and self confidence and Evie finds a true friend who will allow her to drop her stagy facade and be the dear human being she has been hiding.
Julie Walters, always offering the finest skills of acting in every character she creates, finds a role like no other here: she is outlandishly wild and lovable. Rupert Grint is exactly the right choice for the challenged coming of age Ben. The chemistry between the two is as tender as that in the classic film 'Harold and Maude'. Laura Linney is as always a superb actress playing a role quite different from her usual repertoire. And the supporting cast is a panorama of fine characterizations. This film is a delightful surprise and one sure to warm the heart and entertain those who love fine writing and direction and acting - and message! Grady Harp, July 07
Seventeen-year old Ben (Rupert Grint) is terribly shy and has withdrawn from his overbearing mother (Laura Linney) and reclusive father. He goes to work for a washed-up, eccentric actress (Julie Walters) and gets caught up in her world when she takes him on a trip that promises some life-changing lessons for both of them. This coming-of-age story misses the mark because I didn't believe the boy would change because of anything that happened. He does go through some overly-dramatic … more
Pros: Julie Walters and some moments of fun in the film Cons: Ms. Linney and a general lack of control of the story as a whole The Bottom Line: Only Julie Walters shines, and her star isn't bright enough to rescue this film from even just the shallow end of mediocrity Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. I think, after just shy of 300 reviews (the … more
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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With his orange-colored bowl haircut and freckled cheeks, actor Rupert Grint (known by millions of pre-teens as Harry Potter's cinematic sidekick) is perfectly cast as Ben, an awkward teenage boy whose reticence almost trespasses into total muteness. After a lifetime of being reined in by his overbearing, deeply religious mother (the always spot-on Laura Linney), Ben enters into the social world via his job as assistant to one spitfire of a diva, the washed-up actress Eve Walton (the inimitable Julie Walters of EDUCATING RITA fame). Walton, unable to accept the disintegration of her once-lauded career, chews up the scenery with her theatrics, culled from both plays of her past (think Shakespeare soliloquizing on cue) and creations of her imagination (she constantly invents stories to tell Ben, forgetting them only hours later). Yet it is exactly this overdramatic flair for life that awakens something in the actress's repressed assistant, and, for the first time, Ben begins to assert himself and his ideas...