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Movie Critic review: Driving Miss Daisy

On The Ticket Line

A movie that depicts the friendship between a rich, elderly middle class woman and her chauffeur of nearly the same age is very likely a bore.
But if this woman is a Jew and the driver a black man then a curious quiver would run up your spine. And If the setting for the story is the southern state of Georgia, USA just after world war two, then Bingo! You have something to see. You are on the ticket line wondering why such a movie is categorized as a comic drama as both these two types of people suffered from prejudices by the dominant majority either in the form of segregation, in the case of the blacks or, isolation in the case of Jews. Later, you learn that the humor is one dynamic of the movie that grows each time you watch it or recall it! It is consistently heard from people who saw the movie that they didn't remember there was so much humor on first time. This is an attribute of a classic movie.

What Is The Story

Screen-written from a 1987 off-Broadway play, the story is told as an account of a personal relationship. A clever device by the playwright. But what gives it this extraordinary edge, apart from the magical auratic acting performances, is actually the social and political changes which were taking place as a heavy backdrop on the scene. Based on examining prejudices, optimistically touching on old age problems and appraising friendship, a viable work of art is sure to be born.

The lady, Miss Daisy, being a very stubborn paranoid lady, has rejected the idea of hiring a driver for her car after she has wrecked too many of them. Her son Boolie, a well-to-do businessman, finds her a black driver but she is still hard to persuade. Boolie finds her this impressive and pleasant black man by the name Hoke who, in a nice hint at the issue of intolerance, is so patient and accepting as to  succeed in making her listen and understand, thereby opening up the roads to a pairing of the two in a special relationship that extends for over two decades.


The Backdrop

There are obvious hints in the movie to events through the fifties to the seventies that are marked collectively as the civil rights movement in the US which marked a tremendous change in the perception of Americans of their different roots, races and religions in light of a democratic society.


These hints attest to the success of Alfred Uhry who wrote this Pulitzer Prize winning autobiographical play-turned-movie, in tracing some of the healthy origins of human relationships which are based on equality, appreciation and respect. Uhry first wrote Driving Miss Daisy as a play and then wrote the screenplay for it. Below are some elements of the movie backdrop:




  • Driving Miss Daisy to Alabama, Hoke at the border sign reveals to Miss Daisy that the first time he leaves the state of Georgia was a few minutes back! In this scene Miss Daisy starts to reminisce in a nostalgic way. She, herself, did not see much of the world!
  • Driving Miss Daisy to Alabama, a policeman out of earshot remarks after checking their papers: "An old nigger and an old Jew woman takin' off down the road together . . . that is one sorry sight!"




  • As an enlightened person, a former teacher, Miss Daisy claims she has no prejudices but actually she does not take her meals with Idella (her servant) or Hoke! Home Apartheid!
  • At a certain crossing of the roads where the traffic was stopped because of the bombing of a synagogue for its support of racial freedom, Hoke is prompted to observe that African-Americans have long been exposed to intolerance. 
  • In a later scene Boolie, Miss Daisy's son, turns down an invitation to a Martin Luther King dinner for fear that going there would put his business in trouble.

Boolie

  • Miss Daisy is moved by the fact that Hoke was illiterate and immediately starts to teach him how to read. 
  • Hoke is angered because Miss Daisy did not invite him to a Martin L King banquet until they reach the place. This was because Miss Daisy embarrassed by the idea of sitting at a table with a black man in a social event. Hoke, nevertheless, listens to the same speech on the car radio in the parking lot. This anger probably marks the awakening of a political awareness in Hoke who is not really outspoken or confrontational. Well, except when Miss Daisy would not allow him to stop the car to relieve himself!



After The Ride

Driving Miss Daisy (DMD- hope this is not the street name for a drug!) is a must-see classic movie. You can also see it in theater as a play almost everywhere in North America and Europe. It is conveniently situated in the western pop culture and is mentioned or alluded to in many different works of art and culture.
DMD is the winner of four 62nd Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best adapted Screen play (1990). DMD also won the Golden Globe for Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman. It also won awards at the Berlin Film Festival.
DMD (the original play) also won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Play.

Note On The Music Score

The soundtrack for this movie is entirely synthetic, featuring no live instruments in the mix.
The score is "bluesy and/or jazzy" with a weird synthesizer banjo sound and an effectively-haunting clarinet tune.


Driving Miss Daisy Score by Hans Zimmer




Driving Miss Daisey Specs:

Driving Miss Daisy (1989) USA.

Genre: Comedy/Drama. 99 min. Color.
Director: Bruce Beresford
Writers: Alfred Uhry (Screenplay), Alfred Uhry (Play)
Music: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Jessica Tandy (Miss Daisy), Morgan Freeman (Hoke), Dan Akroyd (Boolie)
Patti LuPone (Boolie's wife),  Esther Rolle (Idella).
  

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