Movie Reviews: Learning to Drive & Hello, My Name is Doris

Let’s face it, when most of the movies you end up watching are the Sony Pictures Classics kind, you are getting old. Oh sure there will be other signs: night sweats, a penchant for going to bed by 8:30 and a lingering fondness for Facebook, but when you dig those small movies where nothing much happens, it’s official: you’re Old as Fuck.

When you’re young you can get away with watching those movies. You say shit like, “I can’t stand those Hollywood Blockbusters!” “I like dialogue! I like to look at the Spode china!” “E.M. Forester is just such a master!” You say this to the charming older woman in a turban and dramatic makeup standing behind you in line and then the next thing you know, you are that old bat in a turban edging towards the young people in line.

I speak from experience because I am Old as Fuck (OAF). I know this because I love movies where nothing much happens. I will watch any movie that makes me think, “man this art director must have had a ball with that Restoration Hardware/Williams Sonoma/Pottery Barn catalogue”. No I am not talking about the insulting “chick flick”, I am talking about the much more appropriately named OAF flicks, or afternoon spinster cinema

When I was young, I loved a good ole Merchant and Ivory OAF flick. Helena Bonham Carter was in a lot of those movies, as well some British guy named Rupert, but the reigning queen of afternoon spinster cinema these days is Patricia Clarkson.

If I hear that she’s in something, I will grab my cat, swaddle myself in a taupe shawl and settle in for an afternoon of Patricia Clarkson’s profile as she thoughtfully sips on a glass of Pinot Grigio

So when the rest of the world was lining up to see that Lego Batman movie, I got busy watching Clarkson in a vehicle called Learning to Drive and I chased that with Sally Field in Hello My Name is Doris.

It’s kind of easy to rave about a small film like Learning to Drive. You go in knowing that not much is going to happen. The art direction, the Eileen Fisher inspired wardrobed and the appearance of Meryl Streep’s daughter ALL play an important part.

Ben Kingsley is the Sikh driving instructor and Clarkson is the woman, who after years of marriage finds herself alone and decides to learn how to drive. The director tries to amp up the tension in our post 9–11 world by showing the discrimination Kingsley’s Sikh instructor faces, but that feels a titch disingenuous. It’s as if the director though, Jesus, there really isn’t much happening in this story, let’s add this element.

Over the course of her lessons, she learns about herself, about her instructor’s culture and she drives on. The film is a little too pat. I could have done with more drama on the streets: maybe hitting a cyclist or cutting someone off in a traffic and getting followed home?

But, please, this is OAF cinema, the plot HAS to be slim. If you’re dissatisfied, consider Clarkson’s brownstone. Fast and Furious it ain’t; Slow and Steady more like.

My Name is Doris is nowhere near as earnest as Learning to Drive and it’s a lot more fun. No tasteful New York City brownstone for Doris, no Eileen Fisher inspired wardrobe neither. Nope, Sally Field’s Doris looks like she just walked off the set of the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun video. She’s all cat’s eye glasses, big hair ties, poufy hair and brightly coloured clothes. Doris is a 60 something spinster who does data entry in some modern open concept office. Her mother recently died and she’s a bit of a hoarder. When a new young hipster Art Director gets a job at her office, Doris is instantly smitten.

That’s it. She makes some hipster friends, indulges in some daydreams and confesses her love to the Art Director played by Max Greenfield. Doris has some cranky, salty friends played by Tyne Daly and Caroline Aaron and they’re wonderful. It’d be fun to mall walk with them, but again, the plot is razor thin.

However, after having to watch so many old craggy men paw at young women on screen it is the GREATEST THING EVER to see Sally Field unabashedly go for the smooth faced Max Greenfield.. In fact, it’s not spinster cinema at all, it is Brigitte Macron Movie Magic.

Macron may be 64, but she is Hawtt As Fuck.

Originally published at on May 19, 2017.

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