Written by: Alfred Uhry
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy, Dan Aykroyd, Patti LuPone
Even in old age, life presents opportunities to learn new things no matter the blinders and resistance of the individual. These lessons can be life-changing and alter one’s reality in a manner they never thought could be achievable, which occurs in Driving Miss Daisy. A tale of people from two different spectrums of society coming together but done in such a bland and uninteresting way it becomes easy to forget.
Now a retired schoolteacher and widow, Daisy (Jessica Tandy) can no longer properly drive so her son Boolie (Dan Aykroyd) hires a driver to take care of any transportations needs. The driver, Hoke (Morgan Freeman) must now put up with the resistance of Miss Daisy as she refuses to acknowledge his presence and be friendly to him.
As several films in the controversial list of movies to have won Best Picture, some truly stick out for the heinous nature of their victory and the competition they were up against. Unfortunately for Driving Miss Daisy, it came out the same year where Do the Right Thing did not even get nominated, which made its eventual win an act of horror at the time when looking back. Not only does the film not match up to Spike Lee’s masterpiece, but it fails to even be a good film because its filmmaking and message have about as much excitement as a glass of month-old milk. It has a unifying message, for sure, but the methods of achieving it use every tired trope when telling this type of story.
Pleasantness would be a good way to describe this film, seeing as it centers on conversations between Hoke and Daisy as they drive around together for her daily routines and outings. Their disagreements always have a cutesy tone to it and never reaches a place of physical malice. It allows for Hoke to enlighten Daisy about what it’s like to be a Black person in America, seeing as she has her own warped perspective as a Jewish woman. Daisy’s initial trepidation towards having Hoke drive her around walks a tight balance of it being purely racism or her not wanting anyone to take care of her in hope to still be independent. It dips into both of these puddles for the film, but either way, the onus remains on the shoulders of Hoke to try and convince her of his worthiness. It’s partly what makes this such a forgettable feature and plays into the idea of the magical Black person set to enlighten a prejudiced person.
Morgan Freeman proved to be the perfect person to portray Hoke because he captures what the film wanted out of this character. Someone with a nice soothing voice and lovable demeanor to absorb all of the nonsense thrown by both Daisy and her son. He has the stature to be his own man while also being a punching bag for all of the racism the film employs. Freeman brings his natural kindness to the role and makes the most of it even if it may be thankless at times. He fully embraces the southern accent of that time to legitimately portray this man and demonstrates how difficult it must be to truly be mean to him.
For the call to unity this film tries to inspire, the screenplay and filmmaking are so rudimentary with how the story gets put together. Everything is fairly languid with no real dynamism, which perhaps purposefully matches the two older individuals followed in this film. However, it does not make for an engaging viewing experience, especially when the words being spoken by the characters do not carry anything very interesting to say about the people or the surroundings. All of it just sits in mediocre territory where it tells such a by-the-numbers story in such an unenthusiastic manner.
Its legacy of winning Best Picture has certainly put unjust expectations on Driving Miss Daisy, but the film does not even measure up to being a good film. No aspect of the feature can be described as worthy of any praise because it tells such a softball story with two uninteresting characters and utilizing some of the most tired tropes of people trying to make unifying stories about race. There’s absolutely no reason to watch this film unless you want to watch every Best Picture winner, which ultimately led me to unfortunately viewing this pedantic and slog of a movie.