Learning to Drive (R)
22/09/15 23:31 Filed in: 2015
Directed by: Isabel Coixet
Starring: Patricia Clarkson
This review was originally tweeted in Real-time from the back row of a movie theater and appears @BackRoweReviews. Though efforts were made to tease rather than ruin this movie’s memorable lines and moments, some spoilers may exist in the following evaluation. The original tweets appear in black, while follow-up comments appear in red. For concerns over objectionable content, please first refer to one of the many parental movie guide websites. All ratings are based on a four star system. Happy reading!
Or as Kingsley’s Darwan says, “Seatbelt first.”
“Driving is a freedom.” One that can be revoked for idiots.
Many people need to be reminded that driving is a privilege not a right and that a license can be revoked at any time. There, I’ve made my point. Idiots!
The #TaxicabConfessions style opener is heartbreaking.
And an accurate portrayal of what cabbies must deal with as part of their job. No thanks.
“The third itch.” Male menopause. #Manopause
Every seven years. Kinda’ like Vulcans and Pon Farr.
“Teach yourself to see everything.” No easy task.
Especially for people who suffer from ADD/ADHD.
A #SkankMachine. Amusing.
And just like the tantalizing treats in a vending machine, flings only meet an immediate need and are nothing more than empty calories for the soul.
“It’s like asking me to move out of me.” Sad.
A spiteful spouse will use anything they can to inflict emotional pain during a divorce.
“I think it’s time to discuss road rage.” Ha!
Kingsley is masterful in his portrayal of an Indian man. Of course, he’s had plenty of practice. Gandhi (1982).
“Rear entry.” Check!
Not even gonna’ touch this one. Ew!
Peligro. Right motive, wrong language.
How terrifying would it be to live in a country where you didn’t know the language, customs, etc.?
“Goodbye Wendy.” Illegal hands to the face.
A really telling scene. Clearly Darwan has feelings for Wendy, but those feelings will have to remain unexplored due to his circumstances.
“You’re my faith.” Touching moment.
Whereas it’s inadvisable to put your faith in a person, I understand and agree with Wendy’s sentiment here. An extremely bittersweet resolution.
Final analysis: a feel good drama about finding the courage to overcome the painful transitions in life.
Rating: 3 out of 4. Superb central performances & a heartwarming story make this a crowd-pleasing winner.
Let’s face it…there isn’t anything earth-shattering about this movie. The family drama meets collision-of-cultures premise has been done many times before in movie history. Elevating such a project above the morass of similarly themed films requires, among other things, stellar lead performances. This movie certainly delivers on that front with superb turns by Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley, two actors you wouldn’t naturally match up as a possible love interest, but who are marvelous together here. It’s not just the A-list actors who deserve credit, though: Grace Gummer (The Newsroom), Jake Weber (Hell on Wheels) and Sarita Choudhury (Homeland) also shine in their supporting roles. A solid assist also comes from the many NYC locations, which visually festoon the film while grounding the story in a strong sense of place. Another plus here is the judicious placement of cultural (Indian) insights into the story line, which provide diversity and authenticity to the proceedings. However, what really sets this film apart from others of its ilk is its unique riffs on dramedy tropes. The first expectation shattered here, and the trailer was more than a little disingenuous on this count, is that this is a romance film. As the plot unfolds, it becomes evident that Wendy (Clarkson) and Darwan (Kingsley), who meet via a chance encounter and develop an unlikely friendship, have feelings for each other. Those feelings, however, remain unrequited due to timing and propriety: Clarkson is in the throes of a divorce while Kingsley is just jumping (literally, since he ties the knot one day after meeting his bride) into a marriage—arranged, of course, as per cultural dictates. The wistful yearning the characters have for each other is palpable and the chemistry between them is undeniable. The fact that this slice-of-life story doesn’t degenerate into romantic drivel is really what recommends it the most. Another story element that eschews the typical cutesy or lazy storytelling often found in this brand of light drama is when Clarkson’s daughter, Tasha (played by Meryl Streep’s daughter, Gummer), asks if she can live at home with mom after experiencing a painful breakup with her boyfriend at college. Recently separated Wendy is in need of companionship, so this plan seems like a natural, mutual resolution to the felt-needs of both mother and daughter. However, Clarkson turns down her daughter’s request and affirms that returning to college, where Tasha will soon develop new friendships and romantic interests, is really the best thing for her. It’s a great moment that flies in the face of convention and is 100% schmaltz free. The final narrative changeup is when Wendy says her faith rests in Darwan, which precludes any kind of relationship with him since he’s married. Again, the writers don’t resort to pat or contrived solutions, so kudos to them for taking the narrative high road. While the sentimental set will surely grow frustrated by these less-than-ideal plot choices, those who prefer realistic stories with genuine emotions should thoroughly enjoy this honest, straightforward portrait of individuals who are attempting to embrace new beginnings while coping with life-altering challenges. Or to put it a different way, the movie is really just about learning how to suck it up and drive on.