Driving Miss Daisy
Miss Daisy (Jessica Tandy) may be getting up in years, but her mind is still sharp enough to know a few things for sure.
The first is that she doesn’t need anyone else handling the car for her, even if she just backed the automobile down the driveway and over the steep retaining wall separating her property from the neighbor’s.
So it is little wonder she protests loudly when her adult son Boolie (Dan Aykroyd) takes away her car keys. Nor does she appreciate it when he employs Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman) to be her chauffeur, even if the not-much-younger-than-herself black man needs the job. And she is completely aware Hoke is using his best wit and wisdom to coax her into accepting the arrangement. Still, he has a point. Boolie intends to pay Hoke whether or not she uses his services—and such a waste of money offends her frugal sensibilities.
That’s another thing: Miss Daisy is not rich! Despite living in a stately home left by her successful husband, the widow prefers to remember the meager circumstances of her youth. Taking pride in her humble upbringing, she certainly doesn’t want her friends mistaking a hired driver as a sign of wealth.
Lastly, Miss Daisy is definitely without prejudice. Her longstanding relationship with her African American maid (Esther Rolle) is proof of that. As well, she herself is Jewish and has never been ashamed of her heritage. Her broadmindedness even extends to disapproving of Boolie and his wife (Patti LuPone) when they try to ignore their ethnicity in order to climb Atlanta’s social ladder.
Viewers of the movie however, may not be as convinced about Miss Daisy’s ethical beliefs. Watching the evolution of her twenty-year-plus relationship with the humble Hoke, they are more likely to find some wry humor when her actions contradict her assertions. While this may be a subtle approach to exploring some deep issues, there is no shortage of poignancy in the film’s messages about self-perception, aging and discrimination.
Played out against a back drop of the social changes and historical events that occurred in America between the late 1940’s to the early 1970’s, the film establishes the passing of time by using small cues like varying car models (sure to delight auto enthusiasts), license plate dates, creative make-up and careful set design. Coupled with exquisite photography and Academy Award winning performances (both Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy were nominated in the Best Actor/Actress categories—the 80-year-old Tandy took home the Oscar), this quiet adaptation of Alfred Uhry’s stage play is sure to delight mature audiences looking for a thought-provoking ride.