Film >Driving Lessons
Depressingly symptomatic of the kind of film that constitutes “art house cinema” these days, the U.K. import Driving Lessons is a piece of torturous schmaltz whose greatest compliment is that its edge is slightly rougher than that of Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, another insipid “charmer” about an age-defying friendship. Ben (Rupert Grint of Harry Potter fame) is a socially awkward 17-year-old ruled by the hand of God, delivered not from his whipped preacher father but from his oppressive, overprotective mother (Laura Linney). A part-time job working for an elderly, out-of-work actress (Julie Walters) turns into full-time companionship, forming a bond that enriches both of their lives. Walters’ Evie is supposed to be a zany free spirit, but she’s simply an unlikable, histrionic shrew. Despite the cool points earned by the Sufjan Stevens songs in the soundtrack, the film’s condescending contrivances are contemptible.