September 11, 2015, - 4:13 pm

Wknd Box Office: The Visit, Learning to Drive

By Debbie Schlussel


Here are my reviews of this weekend’s new movies, one of which I really liked and the other of which features the creepiest sex scene I’ve ever seen (and never needed to see) in a movie. “The Perfect Guy” was not screened for critics. I’m going to try to get the rest of my reviews that I missed in the past weeks up over the weekend and next week and then get back on schedule, every Friday. But, remember, you can always hear my movie reviews live, first thing every Friday morning on “The Mike Church Show” on SiriusXM Patriot Channel 125 after 7:05 a.m. Eastern, on “The Pat Campbell Show” on KFAQ 1170 AM Tulsa at 7:35 a.m. Eastern, and on “The James Show,” on KWTX 1230 AM at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. I do my movie reviews on all three shows, as well as some discussion of current political issues and pop culture topics.

* “The Visit“: I really enjoyed this latest film from M. Night Shyamalan. It’s very creepy, extremely funny, and a very tight script. There’s not a moment of boredom here, as it’s a tightly written script for a movie that’s just over 1.5 hours long. And it’s original stuff, instead of the usual Hollywood beyond-their-expiration dates retreads of ideas that have already been done. I laughed a lot during this movie, especially at the end, during which I couldn’t stop laughing. And by the end, I mean the closing credits, which you gotta stay for. For a scary movie, this achieves the goal. Reviewing movies, I’ve seen a lot of attempted-scary movies which fail to scare. This one does the trick with almost no blood and gore. But it’s not for kids, at least not young ones For mid-teens, it’s fine (there are language issues, a naked butt, and some dead bodies). There are no big names starring in this movie, which is probably by design (and because of budget), but the acting is great.

The story: a woman (Kathryn Hahn) fell in love with her substitute high school teacher, and after she graduated, she ran away from home and married him, against her parents’ wishes. They haven’t spoken since. Recently, the woman’s husband and father to her two kids, left her for someone else. And her parents tracked her down on Facebook, asking to see their grandchildren. The woman is going on a cruise with her boyfriend and sent her kids to visit her estranged parents and their farmhouse.

The two kids, young teens, are Becca (Olivia DeJonge), an aspiring filmmaker, and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould, who looks like a young Dax Shepard), who thinks he’s a White rapper. His character, and the actor who plays him, really make the whole movie. He’s very, very funny, especially when he raps. A good deal of the movie is from footage shot by Becca, as she is making a documentary of the whole experience of meeting her grandparents for the first time.

When the kids arrive in town and are taken to the farmhouse, everything seems normal and okay, and their grandparents are charming. But each of them soon begins acting strange and demonstrating weird behavior and quirks. This includes the grandmother scampering around at night and making loud noises, mimicking animals. This frightens the kids and they keep the door to their room locked.

There are a lot of modern technological touches, even though the kids can’t get a cellphone signal at the house. During the movie, they Skype with their mother a few times, watch a video she sends them, and do other things online. Plus, they use a camera to record some of the weird goings-on at the house.

And in addition to Tyler’s rapping, there are other funny moments, especially from the grandmother, the odd Deanna Dunagan, known as “Nana.” They call the grandfather, “Pop Pop.” And there’s a running gag from minor characters, who all claim to be “actors” (or wannabe actors).

There is a premise in the movie, which you might assume and which the filmmakers assume you’ll assume. I didn’t assume it and questioned it, so I knew what was going on, but I still enjoyed it a lot, and it didn’t ruin the movie.

This is one of those odd movies for which the trailer isn’t nearly as good as the movie. Usually, it’s the other way around and the trailer makes the movie look much more exciting than it is.

This one’s entertaining, funny, and the kind of escapism you expect at the movies. A caveat, though: if you are over 50 and/or not a fan of scary movies, and don’t like this movie, don’t complain to me (as is sometimes the case here). This is for people who want to go see this kind of movie, not some deep, serious flick.

Remember, stay for the closing credits.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Learning to Drive“: This movie was okay, but not great. I felt like I saw half a movie. And it seemed not to have much of a point.

Patricia Clarkson plays a literature critic, writer, and professor who lives in a Brooklyn brownstone–you know, like the typical liberal leftist intelligentsia. Her husband of many years tells her he’s leaving her for someone else (a writer whose work she likes), and she must pick up the pieces to move on with her life. Her husband tells her of the breakup at a restaurant and in the back of a cab. It turns out the cab driver (the anti-Israel Ben Kingsley), a hardworking Sikh immigrant, is also a driving instructor. And, soon, the woman is taking driving lessons from him as a way to expand her horizons and to develop some degree of freedom.

The story follows the slowly-developing friendship of sorts between Clarkson and Kingsley. But it also explores Kingsley’s arranged marriage and his struggle to develop a connection with his new wife, as well as her struggle to adjust to a new life in America, where she doesn’t know anyone.

I liked Kingsley’s character’s old world values of hard work and modesty, until he asks Clarkson for coffee in a way that makes it appear like a married man trying to pick up a woman on the side. I also didn’t know why we had to learn about Clarkson’s drunken father who left her and her mother. Yup, all the men gotta be creeps and jerks in a Hollywood product. And all of the women are innocent, persecuted victims.

Far worse, though, is a sex scene between Clarkson and a man she just met on a blind date. The man, wealthy and involved in finance, is studying tantric sex. What transpires is incredibly creep and very painful to watch and listen to. The man makes the weirdest noises and movements, and I threw up in my mouth a little watching it. TMI! Not sure, also, what it had to do with the rest of the movie, unless it was in there to contrast a rich “ugly American” with the hardworking male Sikh immigrant.

Not that I wanted or need more of this, but the movie seems to end very abruptly, making it feel like you just sat through only half of a movie. Where’s the rest? Or better question: what was the point of everything you’ve seen thus far, other than to separate you from your money and just under 1.5 hours of your life you’ll never get back? I like the Sikhs, but I’ve seen other movies about Sikhs adjusting to life in America that were far more enthralling and worthy.

Other than the weird sex scene, this movie isn’t objectionable or offensive. It’s just not that great. Or even close. It seems like somebody made a movie just to make a movie. And that’s not enough to steal your time and money.


Watch the trailer . . .

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8 Responses

“Ed Oxenbould, who looks like a young Dax Shepard”

Very, very mean. 🙂

Dee on September 12, 2015 at 4:04 am

WHERE PEOPLE CAN ASK U ANy question they want

BEC on September 12, 2015 at 5:08 am

When I saw the previews for The Visit, I felt like I really wanted to see it. I’m not a person who likes horror movies, and I don’t fit the age demographic. I’m very happy to see your review. It confirms for me that I would like this movie.

Jacalyn Simon on September 12, 2015 at 1:07 pm

Really sick of Sir Kingsley, especially playing a Sikh. Had enough of him as Gen. Piccard and Gandhi – neither of which I saw.

DS_ROCKS! on September 12, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Being a Gandhi hater, I loathe Ben Kingsley as well – especially after watching that 3 hr movie some 30 years ago. It’s not surprising that Kingsley pimps Islam – the character he played went as far as backing a caliphate in 1919.

Infidel on September 12, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    Interesting the remarks about Gandhi. Two facts about him I find disturbing: (1) his personal letter to Hitler in which he calls Der Fuehrer his “friend”, and (2) famed historian Paul Johnson’s research about Gandhi’s committed attempts to get the Jews to surrender to Hitler and use his non-violence methods instead, on the theory that the Nazis were like the civilized Western leaders.

    Andrew Slater on September 20, 2015 at 8:40 pm

Watched ‘The Visit’ yesterday. While it was okay, some things that they showed – like one character filling up adult diapers and later smear Tyler’s face w/ it – really drove it down for me. Not the scary stuff.

Infidel on September 14, 2015 at 11:06 pm

“Learning to Drive”. I’d have given it a higher rating. While I agree with most of your review, I found the situation in America of the Indian character about to marry Ben Kingsley’s character quite compelling. And Kingsley’s desperate and somewhat pathetic reaction to it by involving Patricia Clarkson’s character compelling.

I also like the rarely seen ending, which reminds me of one of my favorite Catherine Deneuve films of all time, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1954).

It’s a small film, yeah. But the acting was top-notch and the script seemed honest.

I’d have given it at least two Reagans.

Andrew Slater on September 20, 2015 at 8:35 pm

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