It’s a frequent lament among filmgoers older than 50: “Hollywood doesn’t make movies for adults anymore,” except it isn’t true. The movies get made, but studios direct the bulk of their distribution and marketing funds elsewhere. This year alone saw the release of I’ll See You in My Dreams, Ricki and the Flash, and Grandma. Now we have Barcelona-born director Isabel Coixet’s Learning to Drive which reunites her with Elegy costars Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley.
In the film, cowritten by New Yorker writer Katha Pollitt and Sarah Kernochan (Oscar winner for 1972’s Marjoe), Clarkson’s Wendy, a writer, meets Kingsley’s Darwan, a Sikh cabbie and driving instructor, after her husband leaves her for a younger woman. First, she goes through the five stages of grief. Then, she hires Darwan to teach her to drive so she can visit her daughter (Grace Gummer) in Vermont. It never occurs to Wendy that she could take a bus or a train, but no matter.
Clarkson, the ultimate WASP (with skin so pale, it’s practically translucent) and Kingsley, born Krishna Pandit Bhanji, are very good together. Naturally, he teaches her about patience and she teaches him about poetry, but some predictability is a small price to pay for a film about ordinary Americans trying to get through the day without having to battle aliens, dinosaurs, or other forms of computer-generated conflict.