Sunday, September 03, 2006
Driving Miss Daisy
Everybody raves that this is such a great movie. Now I know why.
Driving Miss Daisy, starring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman, is absolutely brilliant. It's a character study--my favorite kind of movie. You can take your complex story lines and special effects. We don't watch movies or television for that. We watch them for the characters, and this film has two of the greatest that I have ever seen with an even more incredible relationship.
Daisy Werthan (Tandy) is a stubborn old woman who will not let her son or anyone else get in the way of her liberty. She says what she wants, does what she wants, and answers to no one. She is prejudiced, though she makes a big deal over the fact that she isn't. She's rich, but she makes a big deal over the fact that she didn't used to be. She hates to admit that she is getting on in years and needs help. She is a sassy and stubborn steel magnolia, but inside--deep inside--she is caring and loving in her own way.
She is beautifully countered by her driver, Hoke, played by Morgan Freeman. Morgan Freeman is, of course, the finest actor who has ever lived, anyway. But he is truly remarkable in this role. Hoke is the happy-go-lucky driver who is the only person in the world that is just as stubborn as Daisy. She refuses to use his services, and so her son is paying him for nothing. Hoke will have none of that. It takes him nearly a week, but he wins Daisy's trust, and eventually her heart. He is a smiling, jolly old man who knows exactly how to treat his white "superiors" in the Georgia of the 1950s and 60s. But he is not pushed around or pushed down. He won't let Daisy treat him like a black man. As stubborn and as rude as she is, he makes her treat him like a man.
The relationship between the two characters is even more amazing than their individual characters. They are so different, and yet so alike. A rich Jewish woman and a poor black man did not often associate, much less form a friendship, in Georgia in the middle of the 20th century. Their personalities differed as much as their heritages. The viscious old woman and the kind-hearted gentleman. But they are more alike than meets the eye. Both are ambitious but held back; Daisy is held back by her son and Hoke is held back by society. Also, both are stubborn and will not settle. Hoke is the only one who can put Daisy in her place, and Daisy almost appreciates that someone has the nerve to argue with her. A friendship is born out of this mutual respect.
This movie follows a friendship of more than 15 years, formed by the two most unlikely friends. It is both charming and inspirational and worthy of the title of "Best Picture" of 1989.