Driving Miss Daisy
Alfred Uhry (Play by Alfred Uhry)
Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy, Dan Aykroyd, Patti LuPone, Esther Rolle, Joanne Havrilla, William Hall Jr.
Bonds of friendship develop between a cantankerous old Jewish woman and her black chauffeur in the movie adaptation of Alfred Uhry’s Pulitzer Prize winning stage drama Driving Miss Daisy.
Dairy Werthan (Jessica Tandy) wants desperately to retain her independence well into her old age. Her eyesight all but prevents that forcing her son Boolie (Dan Aykroyd) to hire a black chauffeur to cart her around. Paid entirely by Boolie, Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman) continues to try and wear her down, following her everywhere.
Beginning in the 1950s and progressing well into the 1980s, Driving Miss Daisy is a tender and passionate study of two people trying to live their lives normally despite a society that wants little to do with them. It is only through their close personal friendship and time spent together that they truly find a world where they belong despite such glaring differences.
Tandy is amazing as the aging ex-school teacher. When the film begins, her defiant bravado is classy and sophisticated and as it progresses, that bitter self-reliance slowly degrades until she is well beyond capable of engaging in normal activities. Freeman gives her terrific support in a role that fit him perfectly. Despite being nearly 30 years her junior, Freeman keeps up with Tandy’s deft work and creates a similarly indelible character portrait. These two so perfectly fit together that it is impossible to believe anyone else could have embodied these characters.
Though Tandy would continue working for the next five years before her death in 1994, she managed to win her first ever Oscar nomination and deserved win at the age of 80, becoming and still remaining the oldest actress ever to do so. Her passing was a great loss but performances like this one help highlight an abundant and accomplished career.
Driving Miss Daisy focuses on Daisy and Hoke but there are other actors in the film who deserve to be singled out. After years of comedic work including his legendary performances as part of the Saturday Night Live troupe, Aykroyd delivers a surprisingly good performance as Daisy’s son Boolie. Alongside him in support is the wonderful Esther Rolle whose charm is welcome in any role.
The film uses Daisy and Hoke’s differing skin color to focus the audience’s attention on their similarities. Jews in the South fared little better than blacks during the time period of the story. In one scene, while Hoke’s driving Daisy to synagogue for services, they reach a roadblock where Hoke discovers that the temple has been bombed. Daisy is flabbergasted by why someone would do such thing yet Hoke knows only too well the iniquities of prejudice. This one event helps Daisy understand Hoke better than any shred of normal conversation could. She knows what it’s like to have her heart wrenched out because of who she is. It is one of many events that finally bring these two people together emotionally.
Having made a nearly flawless picture, director Bruce Beresford suffered like the characters of his own film. Despite tender and skillful work bringing the stage play to the screen, he failed to receive an Academy Award nomination. Though his was not a broad, sweeping epic with vivid, obvious brushstrokes, Beresford did tremendously well with his deft and steady hand guiding Driving Miss Daisy to a deserved Oscar for Best Picture.
January 3, 2007