Monday, August 1, 2011

Diversion 2.0 Thirty Day Movie Challenge -- Day 15

Day 15 – An Indie Film

As a film-goer who primarily gets his product from Hollywood, I’m not terribly familiar with the indie genre. Nor am I a terribly big fan of them; the moment I see a hand-drawn logo or olive leaves of any kind on the box art at Hastings, I run in the other direction. Yes, it’s true that the “indie” genre encompasses many styles of movies (technically, the Star Wars prequels are all indie films), but, most films flying the indie flag look the same to me: pretentious, “quirky” films bent on “telling a different story,” but generally going nowhere. Maybe that’s their game—life has no “point,” so why should this picture?

I’m being unfair, and I know I am, but the last few times I watched an indie film, all I saw were films too concerned with standing out, and not enough on being good films (Eagle vs. Shark, Where the Wild Things Are, etc.). When an indie film works for me, it can be a fun, offbeat success (The 500 Days of Summer, for example), but this rarely happens. Perhaps I need friends with better taste in independent films.

Driving Lessons (2006)

Have you ever wondered what else the stars of the Harry Potter series have been in? I sure have, and rented this movie entirely because of that curiosity. It stars Rupert Grint as Ben Marshall, a seventeen-year-old whose life is ordered around by his overly-religious mother (Laura Linney). For the summer, Ben gets a job working for Evie Walton (Julie Walters), an out-of-work, alcoholic actress who needs someone to drive her around to various appointments. Through their spent time together, Ben learns to come into his own and stand up to his domineering, overbearing mother.

Driving Lessons is, in essence, Harold and Maude with a healthy dose of religious zealotism. Its coming-of-age story is fairly standard, and there’s not a whole lot to speak of for the whole production. There's some family drama, and a marked lack of a manic pixie dream girl, but those are really the only things that stick out in my mind about the film, save for the pretty-looking English backdrops (complete with roundabouts).

A mixture of drama and comedy, Driving Lessons never quite feels like it comes together, and, for me, floats merely in the realm of "mildly entertaining."

Driving Lessons, too, is well-acted throughout. Grint is convincing as an awkward kid who hasn’t quite came into his own, Linney takes one for the team as a despisable, emotionally-unsatisfied family matriarch (though her nastiness feels a bit heavy-handed sometimes), and Walters paints her character with a four-foot-wide brush, character-acting the whole way through, but making Evie the most compelling character in the film as a result.

There was nothing terribly offensive to me about Driving Lessons’ tone like in other films in the genre; it was just dull. Dull in fits, but just generally dull. It’s probably something I would put on as background noise for my indie friend Charlotte, but certainly something I wouldn’t care to watch again on my own time.

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