For all the movies you see at the theater, there are just as many, if not more you won’t see there. Those movies that don’t make it, you can find them going straight to DVD, or they end up on VOD or somewhere like Netflix. Where both of these movies cross paths though are at film festivals where you can see just about anything. With so many film festivals around the country and world it is easy to see a movie being made to play the festival circuit and become a festival movie. What is a festival movie you might ask? Well I am glad you asked.
Last year at the Toronto Film Festival a film titled “Learning to Drive” premiered. It had a woman named Wendy (Patricia Clarkson), whose husband had just left her trying to get on with her life. When she and her husband break up, it is done so in a cab driven by Darwan (Ben Kingsley). It just so happens Darwan’s day job, is as a driver’s ed teacher, so when he returns something left in his cab by Wendy she takes his card for some lessons. Those lessons consist of more then just driving, the two build a friendship, and what you think is a budding romance. That road to that romance is given a detour, when Darwan picks up his new bride from India. Soon Darwan and Wendy must make the choice where to go next, so they can both find the happiness they are both searching for.
This film has the feeling like it has been sitting on a shelf somewhere where someone forgot about it. It debuted last year at the Toronto Film Festival, where it took some time to find distribution. A year later, it is finally making its way to theaters, in a very quite way, and there is a reason for that. Even though Clarkson and Kingsley are staring in it, it’s still flying under the radar. I think the reason is pretty simple, the film just isn’t that good. Written by Sarah Kernochan (What Lies Beneath), the story seems to be confused what it is and never finds its clear path.
Clarkson, who is one of the better actresses out there, really over acts in most of the movie, and for a project she had been attached to for nine years, delivers one of her worst performances. As for Sir Kingsley, he is not as bad, but at the same time brings nothing of value. There are a lot of weird sex jokes, that sound like they are coming from someone who is angry about sex, and watching the only sex scene feels like walking in on your parents, awkward. “Learning to Drive” was hard to watch for me, but I know there is an audience out there for it, no matter how small that audience may be. This movie should take a note from itself and find a school that teaches how to make an enjoyable movie. For this film is all over the map, and for sure took more then a few wrong turns before it got to the theater.