Today I decided to not see M Night Shyamalan’s new movie The Visit (I don’t like horror movies) and opted for a smaller film- Learning to Drive. I went into it not knowing much and I left feeling it was just okay. (hey you win some, you lose some, and some are just okay).
Learning to Drive stars Patricia Clarkson as Wendy, a woman who is dumped by her cheating husband and is forced to learn how to drive (living in Manhattan she hasn’t had to learn). Her driving teacher is a Sikh man named Darwan played by Ben Kingsley.
The actors are what make this movie work as well as it does. I really liked Clarkson who seemed just like a middle-aged New York yuppie trying to figure out her new life. It really worked. Kingsley is also very good as a practical but kind-hearted man. It was neat to see a Sikh man as the lead as that is a religion and culture I admittedly know very little about.
For a lot of the movie they are in the car, doing the driving lessons and talking. That part worked pretty well. I like when movies are about ordinary life. (I guess that is why I loved Boyhood so much!). This is just two people talking in a car. Love that.
I liked that they were only friends and we get stories from both of their lives. Both characters are equally developed and focused on. And it is kind of an interesting dynamic to have Wendy’s relationship falling apart at the same time that Darwan marries a woman he has never met in an arranged marriage.
All that said, the movie struggles with tone. There are scenes that feel like a romantic comedy. Then others that get very serious. And others that are a silly sex-romp. It earns its R rating and all of that content is completely unnecessary and actually a distraction (at least for me) from the good stuff.
Also the ending was kind of a letdown. A character does something that I didn’t think fit with his or her character in the rest of the movie.
Director Isabel Coixet has worked with both Clarkson and Kingsley in the past and you can sense that kind of familiarity. It felt like watching some of her friends live their lives. I just wish the script by Sara Kernochan had been more focused and like I said had more control of its tone.
So learning to drive has some good stuff but problems as well. I’m not sure how helpful that review is but it’s what I thought!
As far as content there is some crude humor, profanity, and strong sexuality albeit brief.
Overall Grade- C just for the good performances and the few other things I liked.
Content Grade- C- (adults and mature teens only).