There’s cinema as entertainment and cinema as great art, and ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ belongs firmly in the former category. ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ is a very watchable, very enjoyable sentimental film that contains a solid performance from Morgan Freeman, and a brilliant performance from Jessica Tandy.
Jessica Tandy plays the title role, an aging, difficult widow in 1950s Georgia, who is old fashioned in her views, and passively racist. When she crashes her car, her son hires Morgan Freeman to be her chauffeur, much to the horror of Tandy. Over the years, however, she warms to his kind nature, and they learn to coexist, and then become firm friends.
It is a hard-warming film that, to its credit, does not become preachy. This is largely due to the performance of the two lead actors, who remain give honest, balanced performances. Jessica Tandy is believable as the prickly pensioner, but never becomes a caricature of herself, and although Morgan Freeman’s character is clearly a nice man, he is still human and not without imperfections.
Having said all this, the film does not excel in many other areas (although the score is marvellous). Aside from the acting the film has little to rave about. I wouldn’t say that anything in the film is bad, but just not particularly notable. The script is fine, the direction adequate, and the supporting cast largely forgettable. The trouble with the film as a viable Oscar best picture winner is that it’s almost too small. It’s a lovely character study, but in order to rate this any higher, I need to find something else to latch onto, other than the performances of the lead roles. Whereas, I was totally drawn in by the characters, I was not drawn in by the film at all.
Some would argue that beautiful sweeping cinematography or a wittier script, would not be appropriate for such a film as this, and they may be right, but I personally think that a best picture award is also not appropriate for a film such as this.
I like this film and I have seen it many more times than some of the films ranked higher on the list, but I like it because of Tandy and Freeman and not because it is particularly wonderful piece of art.