Film scores

Soundtrack review: Learning to drive (Dhani Harrison and Paul Hicks – 2015)

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“Learning to Drive” is a 2014 comedy starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley, about the unlikely friendship that develops between two very different New Yorkers. Wendy is a sharp-tongued author whose husband just left her, inspiring her to embrace her independence and learn how to drive. Her teacher, Darwan, is a gentle Indian Sikh cab driver with an impending arranged marriage. As Darwan teaches Wendy how to drive, they both learn valuable lessons about relationships, life, and the value of friendship. The score was written by Dhani Harrison and Paul Hicks and comes from Milan records. Dhani is the son of George Harrison.

I listen to this score and the music comes and goes without really making an impression. The cues are mainly guitar based melodies, nice and harmless, the kind I would expect from a romantic comedy. I usually have a hard time connecting with comedy scores when I listen to them out of context. They feel a little empty and they need the support of the images for me to be able to enjoy them

There are nice Indian inserts in a lot of cues and they make the score feel fresh and helps unite the two characters. There’ve been quite a few Indian influenced scores this year and I’ve enjoyed them even if they didn’t make a big impression. I think a composition like “Learning to drive” is really best suited for people who connected with the movie or with those who have a preference for the light sound of comedy.

The more dramatic moments bring me a little closer to the score. They don’t last though and even a cue like “The crash” starts quiet and turns into a bonanza of Indian instruments. The music doesn’t dare to go deep but maybe this is the tone of the movie and it doesn’t need to. All these bits and pieces of music build up to the final cue “Going to the country”, which clocks at almost 8 minutes. At least this one has time to develop into an optimistic pop tune which is missing only the voice to step out of the film music genre. I have to say this was the nicest thing on the score, even if it was so light that it flew away as soon as the score ended.

“Learning to drive” wasn’t for me but it’s just because of my general problem with light comedic scores. The music itself was very nice for what it was meant to be.

Cue rating: 64 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 0 / 25

Album excellence: 0%

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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