If I ever need someone to drive me around, I definitely would want Morgan Freeman as the dude.
A genteel but strong-willed Southern matron (Jessica Tandy) is an old-crochity lady who wants to do everything herself. That is all until one day when her son (Dan Aykroyd) hires a driver for her by the name of Hoke (Morgan Freeman). She’s displeased with this, but she soon starts to form a bond with him.
Adapted from the 1988 Pulitzer Prize winning play, ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ is a film that I have been wanting to see for a quite awhile now considering it’s the last PG film to win Best Picture. To be honest though, there were better films that year.
Director Bruce Beresford does a great job here of giving us a story that is initially slow-paced but feels real by the way it moves and by the way characters act. The film starts off by showing these two characters who talk their own way, act their own way, and basically live their own way but soon start to change after they continue conversations with one another. Beresford really down-plays a lot of the changing moments between these characters and it almost feels like something that would happen in real-life is two people of different races and backgrounds were to come together and realize something about each other.
The film also has a great deal of love and warmth in the air, which I think is a real testament to Alfred Uhry’s screenplay. Beresford and Uhry make a great team because the smooth direction almost goes hand-in-hand with this very charming but very real screenplay that not only addresses a lot of the racial problems that were going around the time-period (1948 to 1989) but doesn’t over-do it and does it more subtle than I expected. I think it’s the way that Uhry is able to combine heart, humor, and race issues into this film is the reason it won so many Oscars and why I actually enjoyed listening to these characters talk.
The problem with this film is that even though it may talk about these racial issues, it never seems like anything we haven’t heard or seen done before. We never really get any insight on how these characters feel and even though we get glimpses of them changing, there’s never any real moment where we really see these race issues tackled up-front and center. Don’t get me wrong, I liked what the film was trying to show me but there isn’t anything really new or surprising that this film has to say other than old white women should not drive.
Also, I like the film for being very relaxed and warm with it’s direction and writing but I never actually felt involved with the emotion of this story. Yes, it does have a nice little friendship between two different people that is at the heart of this film but we never actually feel any certain type of heart-wrenching moments towards either of them until about the last 20 minutes. Before these 20 minutes actually happened though, the film brings up little snippets of these two actually getting along and becoming very close but there was not enough of that for me to fully get into the emotion that this story was trying to make me feel.
What really saves this flick is the performances by everybody in this small-cast of characters. Morgan Freeman gives an incredibly likable performance as Hoke and probably the one that put him right on-the-map. Hoke is just one of those Southern bumpkins you get that is always happy about something and finds joy in making others happy but is also true to himself no matter what may come his way. Freeman plays this up perfectly and he uses a lot wit to great advantage and makes us feel so much more for his character. Dan Aykroyd is also here and gives a very quiet and subtle performance as Boolie, and even though it’s a little too hard to forget who’s playing the role, it’s still great to see him actually watch him doing something that makes you laugh considering he doesn’t do much of that nowadays.
Jessica Tandy was absolutely perfect in this film as Miss Daisy and deserved the Oscar she got that year. Tandy is playing a Jewish woman and even though she may never seem Jewish her role as this old and grumpy old woman who complains about anything and everything, still somehow made me feel a lot for her. We see little moments in this film of her being alone and being very scared to be alone but as soon as somebody is there with her, she goes right back to her old and grumpy self. These moments were very moving as we see an old woman who starts to see not only the world changing, but her life as well and the way Tandy plays it all up works perfectly for this character. Her and Freeman actually work perfectly together using moments of silence to actually convey more emotions rather than when they actually are speaking.
Consensus: Though Driving Miss Daisy doesn’t have anything new or biting to say about its subject material, the performances from Aykroyd, Freeman, and especially Tandy and the warm screenplay will make you feel something for this story even if you won’t be crying your eyes out by the end of it.