Learning to drive

If Learning to drive does not make a star out of Patricia Clarkson, I don’t know what film is going to. Actually both Clarkson and Ben Kingsley performances make the material seem much better than it is. As it is, the screenplay could be the basis of a so-so sitcom. Wendy Shields (Clarkson) sees her life coming apart when her husband Ted (Jake Weber) leaves her for a younger woman. The screaming and blaming scene happens in a New York taxi cab. The taxi driver is Darwan Singh Tur (Kingsley), an Indian Sikh, who offers his services as a driving instructor. Wendy has never learn how to drive, and can’t even leave New York to get away from her depressing life and to visit her daughter Tasha (Meryl Streep’s daughter Grace Gummer) in Vermont. Darwan is a patient, soft-spoken teacher who shows her to look around and judge situations calmly, a lesson that helps her in her own messy life. Darwan’s life as a refugee is not the easiest. There is an impending arranged marriage with Jasleen (a delicate and exquisite turn by Sarita Choudhury) makes Darwan nervous. He picks her up at the airport, and we see the difficulties of marrying someone you have never met. Through it all, Wendy and Darwan become friends. As I said earlier, Clarkson and Kingsley and Choudhury make the whole thing work. The corny clichés of a film or a book with “lessons in life” (Remember Oprah’s book club? Ugh! Barf bag!) is sometime so annoying. Here I enjoyed the performances and Isabel Coixet’s direction.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Learning to drive

Directed by:
Isabel Coixet

Screenplay by:
Sarah Kernochan
based on a New Yorker
article by Katha Pollitt

Starring:
Patricia Clarkson
Ben Kingsley
Sarita Choudhury
Grace Gummer
Jake Weber

90 min.

Rated14A

 

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