NEW YORK / / It's hard making the transition from child star to adult roles in a way that can be taken seriously. Jodie Foster is the gold standard of how to do it right as an actress. As a director, Ron Howard is many kid stars' role model.
The list of those who did not succeed is staggeringly long.
Two child stars are attempting to make the crossover with help from the Tribeca Film Festival, which ends today, in films whose themes are so adult that no one will ever doubt that they're not kids anymore.
Harry Potter star Rupert Grint branches out in his first non-Ron Weasley role in Jeremy Brock's Driving Lessons. In this Ordinary People-like story about an 18-year-old with a harsh, distant mother (Laura Linney) and a kind but ineffectual father (Nicholas Farrell), Grint's Ben gets a summer job as an errand boy for Julie Walters' Evie Walton, an aged, foul-mouthed, diva-esque actress. Walters, who in Harry Potter plays Grint's mother, here plays the Judd Hirsch therapist role, encouraging him to spread his wings and fly.
The subject matter is so grown-up that the film's publicist, Michael Kupferberg, was a bit concerned when he observed the audience at last Sunday night's premiere, attended by Grint. "About three out of four were young girls, from about 13 on up," he said.
"I don't know what they were expecting, but this is definitely not a kids' film."
Linney and Walters stand out; Walters, especially, is having great fun with her over-the-top role. But Grint does well for himself opposite the two seasoned actresses.
After the premiere, Grint flew directly back to England, where the next Harry Potter film is in production.
He can relax about his post-pubescent career. He has made his presence known quite nicely, in a well-made film set in the real world, far away from Hogwarts.
The little girls who adore him will just have to grow up and get used to it.
Another actor beloved by kids as one of their favorite sorcerers, Melissa Joan Hart, aka Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, is making her cinema directing debut with Mute, a twisted, sordid tale of forbidden lust and homicidal jealousy lying under the surface of an ideal upper-crust family. It tells the story of a girl (played by her sister Emily Hart) who blames her older sister for sabotaging her wedding and causing the accident that made her deaf and mute.
While the short-film format -- it runs slightly under 15 minutes -- will limit the audience for Mute, and Hart makes some unimaginative directorial choices, she does sustain the creepy mood, so the squalid little story could prove to be a successful jumping-off point for a career directing noirs.
Susan Dunne writes for the Hartford Courant.