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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Driving Miss Daisy (1989)



Reviews and Comments

Driving Miss Daisy is a beautiful film. It is gentle and patient and uncommonly subtle, taking its time to depict a complex relationship that forms over a period of 25 years, beginning in 1948. Jessica Tandy plays an elderly Southern woman whose son decides she should not be driving anymore. Against her wishes, he hires a chauffeur, played by Morgan Freeman. Tandy and Freeman both deliver practically perfect performances, as heartfelt as the screenplay, creating characters we come to care deeply for.

Rare, unfortunately, is a drama like this that restrains itself from taking shortcuts and shooting for unearned emotions. Driving Miss Daisy induces both smiles and tears as well as more complex emotions that don't have names, and it evokes every one honestly, earning our investment in the characters and paying it off with the natural culmination of their lives.

Driving Miss Daisy won the Best Picture Oscar for 1989, a controversial year: many thought that the award should have gone to Spike Lee's brilliant study of inner city racial tensions, Do the Right Thing, but it wasn't even nominated. Well it certainly deserved a nomination, but I don't know how one can say definitively that it's a superior work than Driving Miss Daisy. They're not even intended for the same audiences. The only similarity is that both deal with race issues, and they deal with them so differently and as integral parts of larger fabrics that it's insulting to reduce either to "race" movies. I admire both, but I prefer the elegant nobility of Driving Miss Daisy and the quiet resonance it builds, right up until its surprisingly moving final scene -- surprising, in no small part, because we are surprised at how much power it has built without ever once raising its voice.