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Originally published Friday, December 8, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Driving Lessons": "Potter" stars do turns as a saucy actress and budding poet

Yes, that is Mrs. Molly Weasley (Julie Walters) and her sixth son, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), of the famed Weasleys of Hogwarts pretending...

Special to The Seattle Times

Yes, that is Mrs. Molly Weasley (Julie Walters) and her sixth son, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), of the famed Weasleys of Hogwarts pretending to be two completely different people in "Driving Lessons." Even strangers to one another. Really, it won't do.

Then again, it's a long time between "Harry Potter" films, so it's nice to see these actors anywhere. And let's give young Grint his due for "Driving Lessons," in which he delivers a knowing and honest portrait of a young writer just one life-altering experience away from grabbing the reins of his destiny.

Grint plays Ben Marshall, a talented if ungainly poet caught in the undertow of his mother's rapturous, Christian evangelism. Laura Marshall (Laura Linney) is both smothering and vulnerable in her mission to save the pitiful and the deserving. She casts a humiliated and submissive Ben as a tree in a church play, brings a daft old stranger to live in the Marshall home and openly criticizes Ben's withdrawn father, Robert (Nicholas Farrell) — a minister, no less — for his lack of commitment to Christ.

Movie review 3 stars

Showtimes and trailer

"Driving Lessons," with Julie Walters, Rupert Grint, Laura Linney, Nicholas Farrell. Written and directed by Jeremy Brock. 98 minutes. Rated PG-13 for language, sexual content and some thematic material. Harvard Exit.

Not quite ready to cause Laura pain, Ben puts up with it all, feeling like a stranger in his own life. Worse, the only girls he knows are from Bible camp, and their thoughts are with a hunky new pastor in town (as are Laura's).

Things change when Ben takes a job as an assistant to an aging, almost-forgotten actress, Evie Walton (Walters). Lonely and adrift in memories and the bric-a-brac of a faded career, Evie befriends Ben.

After a rough start, she teaches him something about living for the moment, about being true to one's own voice, about Shakespeare and poetry and much else.

Of course, she's a flighty and sometimes insufferable diva, too — and a bundle of nerves who needs propping up at critical moments. But Ben discovers there's a difference between giving all to someone who encourages you to be you, vs. stifling yourself to keep Mom happy.

Written by Jeremy Brock ("Mrs. Brown," "The Last King of Scotland"), who also makes his directorial debut here, "Driving Lessons" is a poignant miniature that offers Walters a chance to be typically wonderful — saucy but deep — and Grint to stretch quite commendably.

Tom Keogh:

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