A wealthy, strong-willed Southern matron (Jessica Tandy) trades barbs over 25 years with her equally indomitable black chauffeur (Morgan Freeman). Their relationship provides a unique perspective on the civil rights movement and other social changes sweeping the South in the 1960s.

4.5

When I first heard about Driving Miss Daisy, it didn't sound very promising. A film based on a stage play, originally a two-hander, spanning a number of years, about the relationship between an elderly Jewish woman from America's deep South and her Black chauffeur. There was also the fact that Bruce Beresford's last film, Her Alibi, had been a dreadful flop. But when I saw Driving Miss Daisy in Berlin, I was most pleasantly surprised. For one thing, the screenplay by the playwright Alfred Uhry is a model of opening out for the cinema. This doesn't feel like a play at all, which is of course just as it should be. And for another, the three central performances are just about perfect, and deserve their Oscar nominations. Jessica Tandy as the crusty, cranky Miss Daisy, Morgan Freeman repeating his stage role as the stubborn proud chauffeur, and Dan Aykroyd who against all expectations is excellent as Daisy's son.

Apart from the performances, the film succeeds because Bruce Beresford keeps the sentimentality firmly at bay. Just as you think the picture is going to get soppy, he pulls back sharply. This represents some of his best work, and it's a shame he didn't get one of the film's nine Oscar nominations. Nor should we overlook the contribution of another Australian, Peter James, whose camera work is unflashy but exemplary. The subtext of the film is the way the South changed over the period covered, and those momentous changes are quite subtly integrated into the drive. So, fine acting, subtle direction, good writing, in fact, a film for everyone to appreciate and enjoy.

Margaret: I didn't really get as much out of it as obviously everybody else. [...]

 

Watch 'Driving Miss Daisy' at SBS On Demand