Saturday, February 19, 2011

1989: Driving Miss Daisy

Daisy Werthan is a stubborn, elderly Jewish widow living in Georgia.  Her son hires a good-natured, only slightly younger black man named Hoke to be her chauffeur, despite her insistance that she doesn't need one.  To say that the relationship between Hoke and Miss Daisy gets off to a rocky start is a major understatement, but as the years pass they grow to respect and depend on each other.

This film has such a nice, sweet story that I'm surprised it actually won Best Picture.  There is no war, no epic journey, no disturbing storyline, not even a love story: it's just the developing friendship of two people going about their daily lives.  And it's only 99 minutes long.  But everything about it is done incredibly well, from the catchy soundtrack and witty script to the makeup and costumes that effectively convey the passage of time.  And then of course there are the incredibly phenomenal performances by both Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman.  Both are highly talented performers on their own, and they go together magnificently.  Jessica Tandy won a thoroughly deserved Academy Award for Best Actress, and she still holds the record for the oldest winner of a competitive Oscar.  Morgan Freeman was nominated for Best Actor, and I think it's sad that he didn't win.

Driving Miss Daisy does make a statement about racism in the South, but it doesn't shove it down your throat.  At its heart, this is a film about friendship, and a very good one at that.  I am so glad that it won Best Picture, and I wish more films like this would win.  Actually, what I really wish is that more films like this were made in the first place.

Up next: Dances with Wolves

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