"Pleasant Comedy Mixed with Unpleasant Content"
What You Need To Know:
Most of LEARNING TO DRIVE provides a really pleasant time at the movies. Patricia Clarkson as Wendy and Ben Kingsley as Darwan are perfect together on screen. Sadly, the movie gets an R rating for salty language, including some gratuitous “f” bombs, plus a longer-than-usual bedroom scene. The R-rated content in LEARNING TO DRIVE will turn off the kind of people who would be attracted to just such a story as this. What were they thinking?
(PaPa, Ro, B, FRFR, PC, LLL, V, SS, NN, M) Strong, somewhat mixed pagan worldview, with light Romantic and moral elements and overt false religion including some Romantic and hedonistic elements, some references to Sikhism, especially in a Sikh wedding ceremony and during visits to a Sikh temple where people are praying silently, but no Sikh doctrines are mentioned and movie also implicitly promotes fidelity in marriage, and American woman gives Indian man some positive pointers on how to relate better to his new bride, who’s a stranger to him because the marriage was arranged, and she’s new to America and not as familiar with or as interested in intellectual things as he is, and movie mocks man who’s obsessed with Hindu tantric sex ideas from India, plus some light politically correct implications concerning immigration; about 22 obscenities (including some “f” words), five strong profanities and 12 light profanities; small car wreck, people get upset a couple times; depicted fornication sex in bedroom scene, man leaves wife for another woman, crude verbal reference to oral sex in one scene, implied adultery, and married man asks divorced woman out to dinner, but she politely declines, wanting to remain just friends; rear female nudity in one scene, rear male nudity in one scene and upper male nudity in a couple scenes; alcohol use; no smoking; and, legal immigrant protects his illegal nephew from immigration officials, and illegal nephew hides from officials during raid.
LEARNING TO DRIVE is a comedy about a recently divorced, middle-aged American woman in New York developing a friendship with an immigrant cab driver from India who teaches people, including her, how to drive. It’s mostly a pleasant comedy with wry observations about male-female relationships, but there’s some strong lewd content that will turn off the audience for this movie.
The movie opens on a middle-aged literary critic, Wendy, whose husband has left her for another woman, who just happens to be one of Wendy’s favorite female authors. Trying to reclaim her independence, and hoping to be able to drive to Vermont to visit her daughter, Wendy decides she better learn how to drive. She picks Darwan, a soft-spoken cab driver from India who also teaches people how to drive on the side. Darwan is also trying to protect his nephew, an illegal alien, from immigration officials. Meanwhile, he’s anxiously awaiting the arrival of his new bride, a marriage his relatives back home have arranged for him.
The comedy comes because Wendy is a nervous wreck, due to her anxiety about her future, while Darwan has no idea how to relate to his new wife. Their unlikely friendship helps them gain the insights they will need to start their new lives and embrace their future.
Most of LEARNING TO DRIVE provides a really pleasant time at the movies. Patricia Clarkson as Wendy and Ben Kingsley as Darwan are perfect together on screen. Sadly, the movie gets an R rating for salty language, including some gratuitous “f” bombs and strong profanities, plus a scene where Wendy goes to bed with another man on their first date. The man says he’s a fan of “tantric sex,” which makes this bedroom scene much more explicit than it should have been. Of course, the bedroom scene was completely unnecessary anyway, but, as it is, it’s even more inappropriate.
Thus, media-wise audiences will want to stay away from LEARNING TO DRIVE, despite its positive qualities. The filmmakers have greatly misjudged the audience for this movie, and their movie will suffer for this mistake at the box office. LEARNING TO DRIVE could have been a big hit as a PG-13, or even PG, movie. Its R-rated content will turn off the kind of people who would be attracted to just such a story as this. What were they thinking?
LEARNING TO DRIVE also has some references to Sikhism (“Seek-ism”), but they are meant to establish character and atmosphere rather than to indoctrinate (Darwan is a Sikh). In fact, the movie doesn’t even mention any of the theological doctrines of the Sikh religion (in doing so, however, the movie unintentionally may imply to some viewers lacking discernment that Sikhism is just like Judaism or Christianity). To its credit, the movie mocks the middle-aged American guy who likes tantric sex practices (which are based, in part, on Hindu philosophy and theology). The movie treats his obsession like a joke rather than a serious subject.
That said, LEARNING TO DRIVE has a pagan, somewhat mixed worldview with Romantic and moral elements. It implicitly affirms fidelity in marriage and frowns on adultery.