"Driving Lessons" stars Rupert Grint, the first of the "Harry Potter" stars (Grint plays Ron) who managed to free themselves from the nearly back-to-back films in order to take on another project. "Lessons" stars Grint as teenager Ben Marshall, who lives with his tuned-out minister father (Nicholas Farrell) and fundamentalist Christian mother (Laura Linney), who holds an unspoken rule over the household.
Shy and withdrawn, Ben tries to catch the attention of Sarah (Tamsin Egerton), but while Ben succeeds in getting her attention, he pushes things a little too far when he reads her a poem and takes the situation into awkward territory. Finding himself forced to get a Summer job, he manages to get himself in the role of personal assistant to Evie Walton (Julie Walters, who also stars in the "Potter" films with Grint), a washed-up actress who largely acts and speaks (well, as much as possible in a PG-13 movie) unlike his mother.
The two gradually form a friendship, and she encourages his poetry writing. When Evie asks Ben to take her camping, he goes despite his mother's protests. Thinking that the two are only going to be out for part of the day, Evie decides that she wants to extend the camping trip and swallows the key, punctuating the moment with a large belch.
When Evie informs that she has a performance that she has been invited to, Ben initially is hesistant, then decides to take her when she informs him that she may not have much longer to go. The engagement goes somewhat better for Ben than it does Evie.
"Driving Lessons" is held together as well as it is by Grint's enjoyably subtle performance. In a movie where he's between two rather cartoonish, over-the-top efforts (Linney's character is barely developed and, given how little depth or detail the character has, it results in the character turning into a shrill, one-note villain), he keeps the movie at least somewhat grounded. Waters isn't terrific either, but at least it's a more interesting, less one-dimensional character. Farrell is really a non-factor as the father, as he's gone for long stretches and doesn't make much of an impact in the scenes he is in.
Overall, "Driving Lessons" isn't Grint's best performance, but he impresses simply by doing a very good job holding the film together, despite a script that deserves to be ticketed.
VIDEO: "Driving Lessons" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality was excellent, with terrific sharpness and detail throughout the film. Close-up shots often showed excellent small object definition. Some minor edge enhancement appeared on a couple of occasions, but the picture was otherwise crisp and clean, with no artifacting, print flaws or other issues. Colors appeared natural and clean, with no smearing or other concerns. Overall, an excellent presentation of the film.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is dialogue-driven, with little for the surrounds to do. The film's rather intrusive score, which I didn't feel fit with the film very well, sounded crisp and clean, as did dialogue.
EXTRAS: Waters curses quite a few times in mildly amusing blooper reel. We also get a 17-minute "making of" documentary, 4 deleted scenes (no commentary) and promos for other titles from the studio, including the excellent "The Italian".
Final Thoughts: Overall, "Driving Lessons" isn't Grint's best performance, but he shows talent simply by doing a very good job holding the film together, despite a script that deserves to be ticketed. The DVD presentation offers excellent video quality, fine audio and a few minor extras. A light rental recommendation for those interested in seeing what Grint is capable of outside of the "Potter" films.
The Film C+