Classic Film Review: Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

And the Oscar Goes to:

Driving Miss Daisy, 1989

Directed by: Bruce Beresford

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy, Dan Aykroyd, Patti LuPone, Esther Rolle

 

Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman, the third man to appear in three Oscar-winning films in this list, after Million Dollar Baby and Unforgiven) is hired by Boolie Werthan (Dan Aykroyd) to be a driver for his elderly mother, Daisy Werthan (Jessica Tandy), after she crashes her car and stops driving. Daisy, though, is not please at all about this hiring and initially refuses Hoke’s help and is constantly shouting at him. Over the coming months and years, though, they bond and develop a close friendship and this film follows this.

Much shorter than most of the films so far (similar length to The Artist, but those are the only two at roughly one hour and a half), Driving Miss Daisy manages to cramp a lot of subtle themes and laughs while developing its character and its plot: and it does so effectively. Its biggest theme is racism: Daisy and all her wealthy friends have black servants (as well as Hoke, Daisy employs a housekeeper, Idella (Esther Rolle), an elderly black lady), and there are quite a few lines of dialogue which point to Daisy being racist; but, it doesn’t throw this information in your face. Recent films such as Detroit and Crash deal with racism, but both do it in a more in-your-face way; letting you know immediately that Character A is racist; we don’t openly get told that Miss Daisy is racist (just little subtle comments like questioning if Idella and Hoke knew each other). This is a nice change of pace and really deepened the story, especially when Daisy’s synagogue is bombed (this forces Daisy to realise she is also a victim of prejudice).

The main plot of the film is the relationship between Hoke and Diasy and it is acted and written brilliantly. Both Freeman and Tandy play their roles well, but the writing and the pacing of the build-up of their relationship allows it to come across natural, and there’s a beautiful moment towards the end when Daisy finally compliments Hoke (even after they became friends she was still hesitant on being polite), and this, with the scenario it’s done in, is beautiful.

For a comedy film it would have been nicer to have more jokes; perhaps more back-and-forth between Hoke and Daisy (what we got was brilliant, but as you can imagine in less-than-100-minutes it doesn’t afford it too much time), and at times a secondary background plot (other than their friendship) may have helped parts where the film slowed down a bit, but those are two minor, minor complaints on what is otherwise a very fine film.

The film also has a very good soundtrack with some lovely pieces of music being played in the background, and I was surprised to see the name of Hanz Zimmer pop up again. The man who has worked on The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean, Gladiator, The Dark Knight trilogy, 12 Years a Slave, Dunkirk and Rain Man, among many, many, many more.

Brilliantly acted, well-written and well directed, Driving Miss Daisy is a heart-warming film about friendship, while also being impactful enough to deal with multiple types of prejudices. And it does so subtly, which makes a wonderful change from these strong themes being thrown at you.

 

Plot: * * *

Acting: * * * *

Writing: * * * *

Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating:  * * * ½

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