Rupert Grint has been given global exposure from his supporting role in the Harry Potter series so his new film Driving Lessons (Jeremy Brock) is an opportunity to see if he can step up to leading star status. He plays Ben, a downtrodden seventeen year-old facing up to another bleak school summer holiday with his ultra conservative parents. His summer is transformed however, when he’s employed by retired actress Evie (Julie Walters). Vulgar, dignified and childish all together, she brings a rebel spark to his life of Bible-classes, driving lessons and helping at an old people’s home. Driving Lessons looks to be a typical coming-of-age comic drama, but the tagline ‘She drinks, he drives’, a reference to the roadtrip the pair embark on, suggests that this could be veering towards the right amount of wit to prevent it from slipping into sentimentality.
Grint is going to have a difficulty shrugging off the Ron Wheasly persona he has become famous for, and the scenes contained in the trailer suggest that he is playing up the same kind of awkward teenage character. Whether Driving Lessons is a hit will depend to a large extent on whether Grint’s fans turn out, testing their support for him away from the Harry Potter franchise. Question marks might be put to his appeal beyond the children’s film market, but being flanked by vertan actresses Walters and Laura Linney will get the attention of parents and older audiences. Walters looks on form, playing up every line she gets, while Linney’s turn as a strict, mobile-hating mother should provide some scope for social satire.
Driving Lessons is released in the UK on September 8th, with other territories to follow later in the year. Tartan Films will no doubt be expecting this to be another mild Britcom success in the UK in __ the vein of recent films such as Kinky Boots (Julian Jarrold, 2005).
Check out the trailer by following one of these links: