Starring: Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, Dan Aykroyd
Director: Bruce Beresford
Running Time: 100 mins
Driving Miss Daisy is an American film about an old woman who reluctantly takes on an African-American chauffeur, but as the years go by, their relationship blossoms over a series of conversations in the car.
This is a nice little film. Pleasant, calmly-paced and with two good performances from Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy, you’ll definitely have a big smile on your face when watching. However, the story is simply too shallow to make a properly compelling film, and although you can enjoy it, it’s not the sort of film you should be looking to for a dramatic experience (let alone a Best Picture winner).
But let’s start with the best thing about Driving Miss Daisy, and that’s the fact that it’s just so calm. With costume and production design that make it look like a Sunday afternoon classic, you can bathe in the warmth and pleasantness that emanates from this film.
Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy, whilst having an initially frosty relationship on screen at first, develop into a hugely likeable and enjoyable pairing, and give equally calm and cool performances that just make this such a nice and easy-going watch.
Although I wasn’t a big fan of the story, the one thing that it does do right is give a convincing narrative to the developing relationship between those two lead characters. Rather than get bogged down in back story or anything else, the film primarily looks at how the unlikely couple grow old together, and it is both pleasant and believable to watch unfold.
The problem that I have with Driving Miss Daisy is that it does deliver an ultimately shallow experience. If this was simply going for a relaxing period drama with nothing more to say, then I could forgive that, but it’s the fact that it tries to introduce deeper, more dramatic themes into the story that is its undoing.
Set initially in the late 1940s, and moving all the way up to the 1970s, the film tries to delve into the Civil Rights Movement. Whilst there are a few moments of intriguing reference to the history, it’s very rarely as interesting or even as relevant as you’d need for a more compelling drama, and it was the fact that I kept hearing whisperings of the movement, but wasn’t getting any deeper insight into it, that disappointed me, because it simply seemed like a missed opportunity.
Overall, Driving Miss Daisy is the definition of a nice film. It’s visually lovely, it’s got two calm performances, and it doesn’t move too quickly or ever become too stressful. However, its failed attempts to delve deeper into the themes of its historical setting do make for some frustration and disappointment, and that’s why I’ll give it a 7.0.