kidattypewriter

Monday, June 25, 2007

Teen Squeam

I don't know what I was expecting when I went to see the film Driving Lessons, with Rupert 'I'm not just a Harry Potter character!' Grint and Julie Walters, but I didn't think it was going to be a great film. It looked like it was going to be one of those quirky British cliches-masquerading-as-films about the life of a young man growing up somewhere in a working-class town who meets an unusual character (in this case, Julie Walters) and finds himself learning something about life. Or, in the case of this film, driving. Heck, throw in a handsome outsider who gradually wins over the suspicious-but-down-to-earth locals with his charming ways, and you've pretty much got the plot of every British film for the past decade.

As it turned out, the handsome outsider - in this instance, a Pentacostal preacher - turns out to be a total tosser, who casts himself as Jesus in the Church play while having it off with the mother of Ben (Rupert Grint). Laura (played, oddly enough, by Laura Linney) is fucking nuts, and she occupies herself by indoctrinating her son, making sure he goes to bed before eight o'clock, and generally making sure her craziness rubs off on him. She does a side-line in putting down her husband, Robert, the local vicar - while having it off behind his back.

For some reason, she thinks it's a good idea to get Ben a job with a local actress - and a good thing, too, or the plot would never get moving. The actress in question is Dame Evie Walton, a hilariously over-acting old loon who treats her gardening like a small-town case of genocide. (In her first scene she is hammering at her garden with a shovel and swearing at it). Being a disreputable old screamer who never learned a law she didn't hate, she makes a natural pair up for Ben, a squeamish stickler for the rules. She's also given to the occasional fit of hyperbole, or hangovers, which helps to win Ben over to her side.
The 'driving lessons' are a bit of a side joke; she somehow cons Ben to drive her around the country roads despite his not having a licence.
She gets the best lines, too; in one scene, she tries to con Ben into drinking a glass of wine.
"No!" he begs. "I can't! I'm only seventeen and a half!"
"So young!" she sighs, forcing the glass on him, "And so pedantic."
(This after she cons Ben into driving her into the countryside, lies to a landowner about paying him in the morning, sets up a tent, and swallows the key when he starts hyperventilating about what his mother will think. And so on.)

This morning, I read an interview with the director and writer of the film, Jeremy Brock, where he says about Rupert Grint that 'He has a uniquely natural gift for communicating emotion without effort'. That's true enough. Rupert somehow manages to stand still for almost the entire film and seem like an entirely squeamish milksop who's terrified of what the consequences will be when he gets home and his mother finds out. Or perhaps I'm underexaggerating. But it's this performance that makes the whole film, so that by the time Ben does start saying and doing things interesting, you can tell that he really means it. The best line in the film is probably Ben's 'Fuck off, Sarah'. Of course, he also tries to convert the Dame with a 'God is love' speech at one point - it's sort of like he has to get it out of his system - but by the end of the film, it's pretty clear that he's left his mother's brand of nutterdom behind. In one of the last scenes, he sets up a tent with his father in the backyard. (One of the nice things about this film is that it's not an anti-religious tract, but it makes some very sharp observations about the good and the bad in religious communities).

24 comments:

nailpolishblues said...

My mother's going to love this, isn't she? And I'm going to hear about it.

TimT said...

Wait. You didn't steal my mother, did you?

nailpolishblues said...

Um, don't think so. But who knows, the old bird does get around a bit.

Karen said...

I saw Margaret and David reviewing it. There was a clip of Julie Walters torturing the red-haired boy on a bus- "You're gay". "I'm not gay". "Yes, you are". "I'm not GAY!!!". Ho hum.

nailpolishblues said...

And by 'old bird' I did mean my own dear, sweet, insane mummy..

Anonymous said...

So Ben's mother is married to a vicar and having an affair with a priest as well? There's a woman who clearly likes men of the cloth.

Nae.

TimT said...

Karen, there are funnier jokes. The plot is very clever, and Jeremy Brock throws in a couple of curve balls. I notice Margaret and David took a very dim view of it; I think they got it wrong.

Karen said...

Perhaps one needs to ween oneself off M & D from time to time! But it really did just look like something which has been done a zillion times before. I don't think they took a particularly dim view of it. They just seemed to think it had very little that was striking about it- and they thought Rupert Grint (?) was a bit lacklustre.
I must admit that the premise isn't one which would pull me in in the first place.

Steve said...

A review of your review (of sorts): I didn't clearly understand until I read comments that you liked it quite a lot. 6/10 :)

nailpolishblues said...

A question after reading Steve's review. Does this mean that Tim is turning into his mother?

TimT said...

Or your mother...

nailpolishblues said...

Now I'm trying to see you as short, dumpy, and with very unnaturally coloured hair.

The image of you shagging my dad is even more disturbing.

TimT said...

You know, originally I didn't get the comment you left this morning. Which would suggest that I'm also turning into my father.

The plot thickens!

TimT said...

Er, I meant the comment you left yesterday evening.

Steve said...

Tim and Nails - I have no idea what either of you are talking about. Am I just thick, or is it something private inaccessible to other readers?

TimT said...

Steve, just refer to the first three comments in this thread.

Steve said...

Oh yes, I suppose I understand now.

It does sound like a film with a mainly middle aged female demographic. I imagine you sitting there with a cinema full of menopausal women, looking out of place. (Like that old 50's B&W snippet they like to flash on Australian comedy shows of a room full of Edna types applauding wildly. You know the clip I mean?)

Of course, I am slagging off with the benefit of not seeing it, but it's more fun that way.

TimT said...

You could be right there, though I'd say again it's not just a straight formulaic film, it twists the English Country Film formula in very clever ways.

But you're quite right about slagging off films that one doesn't see, it's a wonderful activity, and we all should partake in it from time to time.

nailpolishblues said...

Not to be slagging off films I haven't seen or anything but why did you go see this? I saw a preview and realised in very short order that my mother will love it [and won't it be awful when she finally hears about it] and decided I'd save myself the trouble and $15 by simply not bothering.

I hate those 'oh shit, I've just done something that [pick appropriate parent] would do, oh my god I'm turning into [pick appropriate parent]! Argh, life is no longer worth living. SENILITY NOW!' moments.

TimT said...

Because it was the Only Good Thing On. You know how it is.

nailpolishblues said...

Um, no. That excuse only works for TV. Anything thing else you can just walk away from [tvs, as we know, have supernatural powers that mean that you are powerless in the face of something like Miss USA or Cops or the really very super early news, and are, therefore, excluded][ditto the internet].

Karen said...

If I were to turn into my mother, I would liken every minor incident to a Jane Austen novel, drink sherry and wear a lot of cardigans...

Oh God, it's subsumed me!

TimT said...

The telly/DVD connection here is pretty stuffed up, so that option's ruled out.

nailpolishblues said...

So porn and the internet got boring? Wow.

Email: timhtrain - at - yahoo.com.au

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