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GRANDMA & LEARNING TO DRIVE

year: 2015
GRANDMA: As a lesbian has-been author, Lily Tomlin is a left wing Archie Bunker who, having broken up with a young trophy girlfriend, becomes the title character after her just-pregnant grand-daughter shows up, needing money for an abortion.

The nice aspect of this subtle indie road movie is how tight and basic the story is: our bickering polar opposites go from location to location, person to person (including an unrealistically heartbroken Sam Elliott), to gather funds for the operation, wherein the best scenes have the two main characters alone together, which, luckily for us, makes up most of the ride. The problem with GRANDMA is, beyond the young girl's somewhat stunted, underwhelming performance, the more progressively grouchy Tomlin must juggle blunt, obnoxious humor while keeping the always-cautious political correctness neatly intact: not an easy feat, but Lily kinda pulls it off.

year: 2015
LEARNING TO DRIVE: A feel good quirky indie with more than a shoved touch of wisdom and understanding of another culture while delving into "our own racist" American melting pot in the busy streets of New York where semi-famous book critic Wendy, played by Patricia Clarkson... equally intriguing as mainstream ingenue in DIRTY HARRY'S DEAD POOL or older-indie in THE STATION AGENT... plays first fiddle to Ben Kingsley's Sikh driving instructor: although his proverbial instrument is loudest, being the mentor and overall example of a good man, which is something, or rather, someone, our brainy aged-ingenue lacks and thus, reluctantly at first, needs help to carry her through a thankless, ranting purgatory.

Scenes with the two leads are far more interesting than when we delve into their own troubles, both having to do with significant others that aren't as helpful; his arranged marriage is awkward and her cheating ex-husband has no genuine chemistry to seem like anything ever worked in the first place. And while former Oscar winning Kingsley does a good enough job, his attempt at subtle humor sounds more like Robin William's imitation of GANDHI in the beginning of MRS. DOUBTFIRE.  In other words, Ben seems a bit overqualified for a vehicle that, good or bad or just kinda there, like GRANDMA, is one of those "rent on a boring day" flicks that delivers just enough to pass the time.

GRANDMA: **1/2
LEARNING TO DRIVE: ***
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