LEARNING TO DRIVE ★★★
Isabel Coixet’s ‘Learning to Drive’ follows a Manhattan writer (Patricia Clarkson) who takes solace in her driving lessons with a Sikh instructor (Ben Kingsley) after her husband leaves her. I saw ‘Learning to Drive’ at 12:30 p.m. at the Winter Garden; the majority of the audience appeared to be seniors. They broke into applause a number of times during the screening; there was also a standing ovation when the director and cast went onstage for the Q&A. The movie gets point because it works for it’s particular demographic. Being outside of that demographic, the film’s charms didn’t elude me. ‘Learning to Drive’ is utterly predictable; however, there is enough warmth and generosity between its flawed but likable characters to make it worthwhile. I doubt I’ll give ‘Learning to Drive’ a moment’s thought after this review, but I’m glad I saw it.
MAPS TO THE STARS ★★★
Director David Cronenberg has never been bound by the conventional modes of storytelling. There is nothing glamorous about his vision of Tinsletown; it looks like an insane asylum. The film’s great ensemble includes Julianne Moore (who won the Best Actress prize at Cannes), John Cusack, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson, Olivia Williams, and newcomer Evan Bird (in a star-making role). The movie circles back on the characters’ ideas of childhood – or the absence and corruption of it. ‘Maps to the Stars’ might be Cronenberg at his most cynical. The majority of shots isolate a person within the frame hinting at their self-absorbed enclosure; when a connection is made between multiple characters, it feels all the more startling. There are also a few connections to previous Cronenberg films (Robert Pattinson plays an ex-limo driver – a possible callback to ‘Cosmopolis’, and an awkward sex scene in a car had me thinking back to Cronenberg’s ‘Crash’). ‘Maps to the Stars’ may be half the movie ‘Mulholland Drive’ is, but it still worth seeing.
GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE 3-D ★★★1⁄2
“In order to criticize a movie, you have to make another movie.” – Jean Luc Godard. My criticism of the 3-D format has been a long-standing one. Godard, who is now 83 years old, utilizes 3-D in ‘Goodbye to Language’ in the most imaginative way I have ever seen. One plane remains stationary whilst another pans atop it – the impact is effectively trippy, and I literally applauded the film’s formal wit whilst wondering just how in the hell this worked. ‘Goodbye to Language 3-D’, like most of Godard’s work is excitingly challenging. You’ll notice I haven’t provided a plot description as of yet. Those familiar with Godard’s filmography will understand my struggle here. Let’s settle on calling ‘Goodbye to Language 3-D’ a celebration of life, death, man, woman, dog, nakedness, and fecal matter. “A dog is never naked because it is always naked.” This is typical of the philosophical statements contained within the picture, but what comes across most vividly is Godard’s playfulness with the cinematic toys he has at his disposal. He must have really enjoyed himself at the sandbox.