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Monday, June 23, 2008:
"Driving Lessons" (2006) - movie review
Shy and downtrodden Ben dreads yet another dreary school holiday coming around. Seventeen years of living in an absurdly conservative and traditional household with his highly-strung and overbearing mother and quiet, mild mannered vicar father have taken its toll on young Ben. While the other kids are out having fun, Ben spends these precious few weeks attending bible classes, having driving lessons with his mother and helping out at a local old people's home.
However, Ben's world is turned upside down when he's employed by an eccentric retired actress Evie. Vulgar, dignified and childish all at once, she certainly is not the kind of person Ben expected when searching through the job listings in the stuffy parish magazine, "Hello Jesus". Evie enters Ben's life with a cataclysmic force, whisking him away on a series of adventures from camping, to performing Shakespeare in the garden, to attending the Edinburgh festival--where he finally meets a girl much nearer his own age. Evie's unconventional and often downright bizarre behavior challenges Ben's beliefs, and forces him to confront the very idea of who he wants to be. Then, when it seems that his new-found freedom is about to be taken away, Ben has to suddenly choose; should he continue to conform, or break out and live his life as his own man?
After seeing the last Harry Potter movie, I admit to having a bit of a crush on Rupert Grint, who plays Ron Weasley and is over 18 (thank God). So I had Netflixed him to see what other movies he's been in, and came across this one. It sounded interesting, and I like Laura Linney's work, so that's why it ended up in my queue.
Ben (Rupert Grint) is a quiet, obedient young man of 17 who is being smothered by his mother's (Laura Linney) controlling ways. She encourages Ben to find a job in order to give part of his salary for charitable works, and he is hired by an aging actress with issues of her own. At first, Ben doesn't know what to think of Evie, someone so different than what he's used to. She swears, drinks, gets melodramatic and even yells at him. At one point she is so outrageous that he decides to quit working for her, but she persuades him to stay, and soon the two of them find common ground in the form of Shakespeare and words.
The two grow to be good friends, but their friendship interferes with his mother's plans for him, especially as they disrupt his "driving lessons", which are really more for her than for her son, as she uses this time in a very different manner that does not sit well with Ben, or his father, for that matter. Ben grows more and more frustrated with his family and more vocal as he spends more time with Evie, who shows him parts of life he's never really stopped to consider before. Finally he begins to stand up for himself as he learns the true meaning of friendship.
My thoughts:
For some reason it reminded me of "Harold and Maude", about a younger man/older woman with a significant age difference between the two, but since I never watched that whole movie, I cannot say if that's where the similarity begins or ends. I enjoyed this film, and especially got a kick out of the fact that the woman playing Evie is Mrs. Weasley from the Harry Potter movies - it was fun to see these two together in a different movie. I thought Ben was just adorable, not losing his gawky, quiet edge but maturing slightly yet still remaining endearing. (Note: Rupert was 16(!) when he made this movie, but you can tell what a cutie pie he turned out to be with those broad shoulders and that smile, and that messy red hair. Cute, cute, cute). Evie also doesn't change much, but it would have been disappointing if she had. I even sorta liked Ben's mother, who tried to act all high and mighty and good but was just as human as the rest of us can be.
The movie definitely has a religious edge to it, but it didn't overpower the film. It was more of a reminder how people strive to be good and don't always succeed. Ben tried to follow the rules, but they just weren't working for him; he was miserable. It wasn't until he broke out of his shell that he learned what true friendship was all about. Not to say that following the rules is bad, but sometimes you have to do what's in your heart instead of what's in your head.
Rating: **** out of *****

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  1. I will need to find this for Heather who has a major crush on him.

    I haven't seen it myself but now I think I just might have to.

  2. Good Job! :)

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