I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Friday, September 16, 2011

Driving Miss Daisy, 1989

Rated PG

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this movie. I’ve seen it quite a few times now, and each time I ask myself why I don’t own it on DVD. This is the heartstring-tugging sentimental movie about a feisty old Jewish woman, played perfectly by Jessica Tandy, and her loyal African American chauffeur Hoke, played equally as perfect by Morgan Freeman. The story takes place in Atlanta and starts off in the late ‘40s/early ‘50s. The film spans a quarter of a century, so the audience gets to witness the changes and growth in their relationship/friendship. The film was adapted from a Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play whose writer based it on memories of his grandmother and her chauffer. (I had no idea that Morgan Freeman stared in the stage version first and asked to star in the movie!)

Throughout most of the movie, I was thinking it should’ve been titled, “Putting up with Miss Daisy”. Seriously- her grown-son Boolie certainly has to put up with her obstinacy, but the hired help obviously do too. Miss Daisy is more picky and stubborn than me, and that’s saying something. When she’s being silly or difficult, Boolie says, “You’re a doodle, mama”. That’s my new favorite phrase. [Husband: if you’re reading this, that would be a good code word to call me to get me to lighten up.]

At first, Miss Daisy refuses to have a chauffeur, but once she gives in, she becomes the world’s worst back-seat driver. “Slow down, Take this road, You went the wrong way, Slow down.” It’s quite humorous but sad at the same time. You’d think because of her stubborn nature, that she wouldn’t want things to change or that she doesn’t accept change well. But, she surprises you with this comment about Martin Luther King Jr. coming into town: “It’s wonderful the ways things are changing here.”

This is my favorite role of Morgan Freeman with his role in “The Shawshank Redemption” as a close second. I loved his laugh in this movie. Just loved it. Even the way he said “Yes’m” was so sweet. I just wanted to reach in and give him a hug. Hoke is able to break down the barriers, a little at a time, and over the years, his relationship with Miss Daisy develops into a friendship, even if it is silently acknowledged. He becomes a valued and trusted friend of the family.

I recently read and saw “The Help” (a book and movie about the lives of the colored women who work for Southern white women in the ‘60s) and I immediately recognized a scene in this movie that is evident in “The Help”. The hired help never ate at the same table as their employer. If the employer sat at the dining room table, the help sat at the breakfast table in the kitchen; if the employer sat at the breakfast table, the help sat at the counter. It’s so distressing that a human being, one the employer must’ve trusted, couldn’t even eat at the same table with them. Miss Daisy’s long-time hired housekeeper/cook is seen eating her fried chicken at the counter… Fried chicken being the lunch of choice among Southern black women according to Minny from “The Help”.

The music in this movie just makes me smile. This time, I smiled even bigger when I heard that familiar ditty because I remembered when Jack Black’s character “scatted” it in the adorable Christmas movie “The Holiday” (with Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, and Jude Law).

“Driving Miss Daisy” beat out “Dead Poets Society”, “Field of Dreams”, “Born on the Fourth of July”, and “My Left Foot” for the top award. I haven’t seen the last two films to rightfully compare, but I love and own “Dead Poets Society” so I hope that gave “Daisy” a run for her money. It must’ve been difficult to narrow down the top five movies this year because I think “Glory” and “Steel Magnolias” were also amazing movies that could’ve been nominated. This film won four of its nine nominations including Best Actress (Tandy- the oldest Oscar winner, at almost 81), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Makeup (duh!). The make-up in this movie is phenomenal and the changes are so gradual that you don’t really notice it unless you are forced to look back. They are incredible transformations.

I hope the competition for Best Actor was a close one too because I bet all of the actors deserved it: Daniel Day-Lewis (won), Kenneth Branagh, Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, and Robin Williams. I know from watching their roles that Morgan and Robin just as easily could’ve walked away with the award.


My favorite scenes were near the beginning and then at the end:

When Miss Daisy decides to go to the store, she still won’t let Hoke driver her, so she starts walking on her own. Shortly afterward, he pulls up next to her in her new car and brilliantly makes the car the subject of conversation. (“It’s such a shame that such a nice car sits in that garage all day.”) She’s finally so embarrassed by talking to somebody driving alongside her in a car, she gives in, but she demands they drive below the speed limit because “you save more gas that way”. Hoke realizes under his breath, “You might as well be walking”.

The scene at the end makes my eyes well up. Twenty-five years later, Hoke goes to visit Miss Daisy in her assisted living facility on Thanksgiving. She is so frail, she can hardly do anything for herself, but she demands a few minutes alone with Hoke. He notices she hasn’t finished her pie, so her gingerly scoops up little bites on her fork and feeds them to her as she savors each one. The beautiful scene (and movie) ends with her simple statement, “You’re my best friend.”


Have patience. Hoke knew better than to get angry and give up when Miss Daisy refused to ride with him for a week when he first got hired. Yes, he still asked her and reminded her about the convenience, but it was all done with patience.

Make sure your older loved ones have their licenses checked (or retested). It’s difficult to take away a form of someone’s independence, but sometimes it needs to happen in order to protect them and others.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't seen this movie since I was a kid. I think it would be a good idea to watch it again, especially since my thesis is on attitudes on aging. I really like the observation you made in paragraph three. I will look for this theme when I watch it.