I was fooled. When she popped up again on the screen in the second of two movies I’d seen consecutively in recent times, I assumed it was the same actress. In both she had supporting roles. But my assumption was incorrect, but at least the two co-stars shared the same genes, so I wasn’t going completely ga-ga. I only discovered they weren’t the identical person when I took to the ether after the second film and wondered why the actress concerned didn’t receive a credit for the first production in her filmography. Finally I twigged – sisters. And what’s more, daughters of Hollywood royalty.
The eldest, Mamie (Mary Willa) Gummer was born in 1983 and has acted since she was a kid, occasionally in her mother’s movies. When I delved into it she had quite a resume of significant roles – as ‘Emily Owens MD’; in ‘The Good Wife’, ‘Off the Map’ and the wonderful ‘John Adams’ – all for the small screen. As well there’d been a spattering of movies, but it was in ‘Ricki and the Flash’ that she really caught my attention. I’d journeyed to this offering after a pleasant exile from movie going – hastening to add that partaking of the menu at the State is never a chore. There was something about Mamie G that made me really hone in on her after my enforced absence. Playing a jilted wife in the course of a meltdown, returning to the family home, I thought she was the best thing in the Jonathan Demme directed feature. That and her mum’s glorious belting it out as a minor league rock queen. I’d read Meryl Streep’s real life daughter had a role in it. Straight away one could notice something of her mother’s features in her but, in this, there were a few very rough edges thrown in as well.
As well as a muted performance from the always watchable Kevin Kline, this unrealised gem also gave us our own Rick Springfield supporting Ms Streep in her band and as her love interest – finally. Although at times he seemed to be acting in a different movie than Meryl S, I still enjoyed his presence immensely. The actress has serenaded us before, most recently in the lamentable ‘Mama Mia’, but here she really lets rip – and she’s not bad. She’s a goodly set of pipes on her.
The movie itself has received a luke-warm response from the viewing public, as well as the critics, being in my judgement no earth-shaker – but neither is it without some serious charm. It has a pleasant vibe and the watcher knows it’ll all work out in the end from the get-go. But there are an array of toe-tappin’ tunes and it did introduce me to one of the great lady’s progeny in which long term hubby and sculptor, Don Gummer, also had a hand. I’ll watch out for her in other offerings, as I will for daughter number two.
In ‘Learning to Drive’ I thought I was casting my eyes over Mamie again, although in a lesser role in terms of screen time. I watched the credits at the end just to make sure, saw the name Gummer so felt I was. I knew that link between the two films could be the basis for this scribbling – as it still turned out despite the humble author completely having the wrong end of the stick for a while. But I did my research and discovered it before I had egg on my face.
Grace was born in ’86. She’s had roles in ‘American Horror’, ‘The Newsroom’ and ‘Extant’. Out of Tinsel Town she’s featured in in a few roles, occasionally alongside her mum. She was also in ‘Frances Ha’, a movie I enjoyed very much.
In ‘Learning to Drive’ she has bookended appearances as Wendy’s (Patricia Clarkson) daughter – and gee, she bears a striking resemblance to her older sibling, thus my befuddlement. Again this is another sweet indie that deserved a better response all round. It’s faults, though, were more obvious than the aforementioned vehicle for elder sister and Ms Streep. For my money the ‘ghosts’ that regularly appeared did not add anything at all and Ben Kingsley was unconvincing as the Indian Sikh American trying to teach Wendy to handle a car. He has obviously played Indian before and it is part of his heritage, but he seemed very stilted and uncomfortable in the role. Wendy is again a jilted wife falling to pieces and the driving instructor, in a way, becomes her main means to cling on to reality – before he falls in love with her. The cultural divide, though, is too much, Wendy’s feelings are fluctuating, so in the end he enters into an arranged marriage – one that seems certain to flounder as another cultural divide emerges. Director Isobel Coixet manages her ensemble cast with aplomb – better than the make up artists did with Kingsley’s beard and hair do. For me it was a distraction, trying to workout out how it had all been affixed to his stately head.
Clarkson’s character, taking the step of trying to get her life in order by buying a car and learning to drive it, is all fragility and bitterness. She is a fine actor, is Clarkson, usually in small movies such as this. She is underused by the industry. It’s been a journey(wo)man career, but she garnered awards for her roles in ‘The Station Agent’ and ‘Pieces of April’. She doesn’t miss a beat in this outing, but I must admit I was disappointed with Kingsley, fine thesp that he is. It was no wonder his love was unrequited in the end, if that’s not giving too much away. It is worth, though, perusal on the small screen as it’s run on the larger was over almost before it began.
And, to round matters out, there is yet one more Gummer girl. Louisa is a model.
Official trailer ‘Ricki and the Flash’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8PVK6Hky2A
Official Trailer ‘Learning to Drive’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WBnG3FiZk0