Isabel Coixet’s Learning to Drive – In Cinemas TODAY – From The Help to Midnight Cowboy – Films Most Unlikely Friends
Wendy is a fiery Manhattan book critic whose husband has just left her for another woman; Darwan is a softly-spoken taxi driver from India on the verge of an arranged marriage. When Wendy hires Darwan to teach her to drive in a bid to reclaim her independence, her unravelling life and his calm restraint seem like an awkward fit but as he teaches her to take control of the wheel, their unlikely friendship awakens them to the possibility of starting life anew.
Based on a soul-searching essay by critic Katha Pollitt featured in the New Yorker, the act of learning to drive becomes a metaphor for Wendy’s regeneration and her need to move forward.
Friends can often come from the unlikeliest of places or circumstances. To celebrate the release of Learning to Drive, in cinemas now, we take a look at some of the most unlikely friendships in movies...
Wendy is a fiery Manhattan book critic whose husband has just left her for another woman; Darwan is a softly-spoken taxi driver from India on the verge of an arranged marriage. When Wendy hires Darwan to teach her to drive in a bid to reclaim her independence, her unravelling life and his calm restraint seem like an awkward fit but as he teaches her to take control of the wheel, their unlikely friendship awakens them to the possibility of starting life anew. Based on the soul-searching essay by critic Katha Pollitt featured in the New Yorker, the act of learning to drive becomes a metaphor for Wendy’s regeneration and her need to move forward. Sir Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson lead in this feel-good, coming of (middle) age comedy about a mismatched pair who help each other overcome life’s road blocks.
Based on the novel of the same name by Kathryn Stockett, The Help features a stellar ensemble cast including Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas Howard. Set in Mississippi during the Civil Rights era, it tells the story of aspiring writer Skeeter (Stone) and her unlikely friendship with two maids (Spencer and Davis) that prompts her to a write a book exposing the racism and struggles black maids faced whilst working for white families. The inspirational film was nominated for four Academy Awards, with Octavia Spencer picking up the gong for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.
Perhaps the most unlikely movie friendship of all comes from Robert Zemeckis’ tale of survival in the Oscar nominated classic Cast Away. Tom Hanks stars and independently tells the story of FedEx employee Chuck, a plane crash survivor who must fend for himself when he is stranded on an uninhabited island. Stranded for four long years, Chuck makes just one friend – a volleyball named Wilson. The unlikely and somewhat bizarre friendship forms the backdrop of the movie and is the catalyst for some of the film’s most memorable scenes, proving that in the direst of circumstances friendship can help pull you through.
It’s a case of opposites attract in this laugh-out-loud comedy starring Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal. De Niro stars as Paul Vitti, a mob boss, who begins suffering from panic attacks and seeks medical help from psychiatrist Ben Sobel (Crystal). The perfect comedy double act, Paul and Ben’s friendship is something neither of them planned for; they both come from completely different backgrounds and possess very different morals, but yet their friendship works. It’s no surprise the film spawned a sequel titled Analyze That.
Winner of four Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actress, Driving Miss Daisy is a classic tale of how friendship can blossom when you least expect it. When Miss Daisy (Jessica Tandy) can no longer drive herself around she hires Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman) as her driver. Spanning a period of 25 years, the story is told from the point of view of Miss Daisy who is reluctant to accept Hoke into her home – not out of prejudice, but pure stubbornness. Determined to crack her frosty demeanour and through sheer persistence Hoke manages to win her over and an adorable if not unconventional friendship unfolds.
In Steven Spielberg’s much loved tearjerker E.T. we witness the blossoming friendship between 10 year old Elliot (Henry Thomas) and an extra-terrestrial, stranded on Earth. While it’s fairly obvious that a story about a little boy befriending an alien would feature on a list of unlikely friendships, Elliot and E.T’s friendship is much deeper than a case of opposites attract. The two grow together and learn a great deal in the process with Elliot risking it all to keep E.T. safe from harm. It’s this bravery and compassion that makes E.T. such a family favourite, 34 years after its cinematic release.
Jon Voight stars alongside Dustin Hoffman in this Academy Award winner; both received nominations for their standout performances. The film centres on a naïve southern prostitute (Voight) who moves to New York City and befriends down and out outcast Ratso Rizzo (Hoffman). The two find themselves relying on one another not only to survive in the big city, but con their way into successful prostitution. Not the simplest of friendships but a poignant one nonetheless.
LEARNING TO DRIVE IS IN CINEMAS NOW