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Bruce Beresford
Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy, Dan Aykroyd, Patti LuPone, Esther Rolle
Writing Credits:
Alfred Uhry

The comedy that won a Pulitzer Prize

Rated PG.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Picture; Best Actress-Jessica Tandy; Best Screenplay; Best Makeup.
Nominated for Best Actor-Morgan Freeman; Best Supporting Actor-Dan Aykroyd; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration; Best Costume Design; Best Film Editing.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:
Latin Spanish

Runtime: 99 min.
Price: $27.98
Release Date: 1/8/2013

• Audio Commentary from Director Bruce Beresford, Writer Alfred Uhry, and Producer Lili Fini Zanuck
• “Miss Daisy’s Journey: From Stage to Screen” Featurette
• Original Featurette
• “Jessica Tandy: Theatre Legend to Film Star” Featurette
• “Things Are Changing: The Worlds of Hoke and Miss Daisy” Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer
• Hardcover Book


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Driving Miss Daisy [Blu-Ray Book] (1989)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 5, 2013)

In 1990, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences demonstrated why so many people dislike that organization. As John Harkness wrote in my worn and tattered copy of The Academy Awards Handbook, "In the year of Do the Right Thing, Hollywood chose to honor Driving Miss Daisy, an uplifting film about the good old days when blacks were faithful family retainers."

In other words, when confronted by a strong, aggressive picture made by an opinionated black filmmaker, Hollywood retreated to the comforts of a well-meaning but paternalistic work shepherded by the white establishment. Really, it seems unfortunate that another film that dealt with race relations won in place of Thing. The Academy would have taken flack for its failure to acknowledge the Spike Lee flick in any case, but had something like Field of Dreams won instead, I don't know if the oversight would have appeared as politically charged.

As it stood, this decision looked like a serious slap in the face of filmmakers who wanted to say something challenging about current events, and it reinforced why so many see the Academy as a reactionary, backwards institution. While a competent piece of work, Daisy provided a glaring example of what was wrong with the Hollywood establishment in the late Eighties.

Alfred Uhry adapts his own play for the big-screen here, though the film's stage roots still show. Some settings vary - it's not as claustrophobic as something like A Raisin In the Sun, another stage adaptation that spends almost all of its time on the same location - but the action remains dialogue-intense and event-poor. Granted, Daisy doesn't open up opportunities for vivid displays akin to those in Henry V, but I think it could have broadened its horizons to a greater degree.

In any case, the movie concentrates on Miss Daisy (Jessica Tandy), an aging white woman whose son Boolie (Dan Aykroyd) hires a chauffeur for her when it becomes apparent her skills gave deteriorated. Miss Daisy accepts the presence of black driver Hoke (Morgan Freeman) reluctantly, but they slowly become friends and longtime companions.

This sort of heartwarming piece is supposed to make all of us feel good about relationships between the races, and to a degree, it does. There's certainly nothing overtly wrong with the movie. Not a whole lot happens in it; it starts in the late Forties, and we follow Miss Daisy and Hoke for a period of about 25 years. They drive around together, they chat a lot, they appear to like each other – end of movie. Perhaps that's typical of real life, but I couldn't help but wish for something to actually happen; small changes take place along the way, and Miss Daisy gradually loses her mildly-racist tendencies, but nothing else of note occurs.

The civil rights movement receives some minor attention, and Miss Daisy actually attends a dinner at which Martin Luther King speaks, but those events remain tangential to the plot at best. There's little to stir one up here; even when some obviously racist cops confront the pair, the worst thing one of the officers utters is to call Hoke "boy", and any implied threat dissipates incredibly rapidly.

Frankly, I feel uncertain as to what the actual point of Daisy was. Oh, I'm sure it was made in that "let's all get along" spirit, and that's great, but I seriously doubt it influenced anyone's opinions of other races.

If anything, it could easily work in a negative way, as the film represents a time during which blacks "knew their places"; absolutely no one challenges the system in this film, as all of the blacks are quite content with their subservience. Of course they are - Boolie and Miss Daisy treat them quite well, and Boolie continues to pay Hoke's salary well after his driving days have ended.

Unfortunately, that kind of person was the exception in that period, and some may take the mistaken notion that Daisy offers a representation that accurately displays the historical record. It doesn't, and that's what makes its message somewhat insidious. It says that if blacks just pipe down and drive around the white folks, they'll take care of them and everyone'll be happy.

Yes, Daisy pays some lip service to progress, through the semi-presence of Dr. King and also through Hoke's mention that his daughter teaches at Spelman College. However, the movie as a whole stands as an homage to the status quo, but not today's; no, it goes back decades to find a "better time".

Do I think the filmmakers consciously meant to show such a backwards and dated view of race relations? No, I expect they thought they were creating a nice little tale that shows how race doesn't matter when two people openly deal with each other, and that's true. Granted, there's not a whole lot of development in Miss Daisy - she wasn't exactly a card-carrying member of the Klan from the start - but some positives can be taken from her growth.

I remain convinced that these negatives outweigh these, however. I find it striking to note that A Raisin In the Sun predates Daisy by 28 years but offers a more realistic view of "the black experience". Racism provides such a profoundly minor component of Daisy that I can't imagine what the filmmakers were thinking.

I also am not sure why a great talent like Morgan Freeman signed on for a borderline-demeaning role like Hoke. I adore Freeman and think he adds to virtually every part he plays - except here. His portrayal of Hoke may be historically accurate, as it'd be incorrect to show such a character as well spoken and literate. However, I couldn't help but cringe at times, such as when he uttered, "I'm tryin' to drive you to de sto'!"

Freeman's inherent dignity comes through in the character at times, and he actually seems a little too strong for the role; Freeman is such a powerful presence that I found it hard to accept Hoke as such a bland but good-natured servant. As much as I bemoaned the fact that a great actor like Freeman took years to snag an Oscar, I'm glad he didn't get one for his work as Hoke.

Tandy did win an Oscar for her portrayal of Miss Daisy, an occurrence that seems closely connected to her advanced age, her lack of prior victories, and the weak field that year. Overall, Tandy provides perfectly acceptable work in the role, but the part lacks any challenges, and it seems a stretch to consider her performance as Oscar-caliber. The English-born Tandy does pull off her Southern accent unusually well, however.

As Boolie - why must all movies about the South always include characters with such asinine names? - Aykroyd became the first cast member of Saturday Night Live to receive an Oscar nomination. This occurred despite the fact Aykroyd's not very good in the role. He seems okay, I guess, but I think little personality or emotion come through in his performance. Boolie never seems like anything more than just another Aykroyd character to me; he's nothing more than an accent with a little corn-pone attitude.

Personal footnote: my favorite thing about Daisy comes from my memories. I worked at a restaurant for a decade as I went through high school, college and grad school. Originally from Germany, Ellie long worked as a waitress there, and she always referred to the actress as "Jessica Dandy" and the film as Riding Miss Daisy. Perhaps you had to be there, but these thoughts still entertain me.

That remains my most positive associations with Driving Miss Daisy. As a film, it offers a well-constructed but plodding piece of piffle. The craftsmanship bears no overt flaws, but it doesn't do anything to excite or stimulate either. My problems with it relate to the movie's politics, which seem backwards, to say the least. I found the picture to provide a rather distasteful mix of paternalism and reactionary sentiment, and I don't think it serves a positive purpose.

Footnote: Daisy marked only the third time in Oscar history when a movie won Best Picture without a nomination for Best Director. To find the two prior examples, you have to go way back into Oscar’s very early history. For 1931-1932, Grand Hotel took home Best Picture without a Best Director nomination for Edmund Goulding. However, only three directors received nods that time, even though seven Best Picture nominees occurred. In addition, first-ever Best Picture winner Wings from 1927 also didn’t get a mention for William A. Wellman. Given the nascent nature of the Oscars in those days, these anomalies don’t seem all that strange, whereas the failure for Beresford to get a nomination for Daisy seems bizarre.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B / Audio B- / Bonus B

Driving Miss Daisy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. For the most part, Daisy looked good.

Sharpness appeared a little loose at times, but that seemed intentional, as the movie went for a gently soft period image. Overall, the picture remained reasonably distinct and accurate, and I noticed few signs of genuine fuzziness. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I noticed no edge enhancement. With a light layer of grain, digital noise reduction didn’t seem to be an issue, and print flaws remained absent in this clean presentation.

Daisy presented a subdued palette that favored a golden tone. The daylight exteriors seemed warm and vibrant, and other tones also appeared clean and concise. Not much about the hues stood out, but they seemed satisfying within the design. Black levels also appeared deep and dense, and shadow detail usually was clear and appropriately opaque. A few low-light interiors looked slightly thick, but most of them were solid. The image didn’t dazzle, but it worked well for the source material.

The DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack of Driving Miss Daisy lacked much ambition in its soundfield, but since Daisy was adapted from a stage production, that shouldn't be a surprise; this kind of movie could easily get by with monaural sound. While the soundfield didn’t seem quite that restricted, it came close. Most of the sound leaned toward the center channel, though music and some effects gently branched out into the front side speakers at times.

Some material - usually cars driving - even presented light panning. As for the surrounds, they provided gentle reinforcement of the music and effects, though not much came from the rear speakers. Probably the “showiest” elements came at Boolie’s factory; those used the back speakers to good effect.

Quality seemed perfectly fine. Dialogue appeared clear and natural, with no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects stayed very subdued; probably the loudest elements came from Miss Daisy's car crash early in the film and those factory shots. However, these appeared clean and reasonably realistic.

The score sounded smooth and adequately bright. There was little low-end to be found, though, and the music could’ve been warmer. Nonetheless, this was a competent mix for a dialogue-driven film.

How does the Blu-ray compare to the 2003 Special Edition DVD? Audio seemed more involving and full, while visuals came across as cleaner and better defined. Actually, the Blu-ray revealed the film’s inherent softness better, but that’s not a complaint; it represented a truer representation of the source material.

The Blu-ray duplicates most of the DVD’s extras – and adds some new ones. We start with an audio commentary from director Bruce Beresford, writer Alfred Uhry, and producer Lili Fini Zanuck, all of whom sat separately for this edited, occasionally screen-specific piece. At times we got some notes that directly related to the action as it occurred, but mostly the information didn’t really connect to the movie as it ran.

That seemed fine with me, as the material gave us a very nice look at the movie. Uhry dominated the commentary, and Beresford barely appeared; he spoke only a handful of times throughout the flick, as he offered some basic comments about his involvement in the movie and a couple of other issues.

Zanuck provided some good information about the challenges involved in the production, while Uhry delivered a lot of very useful notes, most of which revolved around the facts behind the fiction. The writer based the movie on the later life experiences of his grandmother, and his comments helped give us a nice background for the story. Uhry also related many other solid tidbits about the project. Overall, the commentary seemed consistently lively and engaging, and it actively added to my understanding of the film.

Next we move to four separate video programs. Jessica Tandy: Theatre Legend to Screen Star pays tribute to the late actress. It includes clips from the movie, a few shots from the set, and interviews with director Jon Avnet, actress Frances Sternhagen, Uhry, Beresford, and Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck. The six-minute and 43-second piece doesn’t tell us much. It plays way too many snippets from the film, and the participants mostly just tell us how wonderful Tandy was. Some of the behind the scenes bits seem interesting, but otherwise “Legend” comes across as dull.

Matters don’t much improve with the six-minute and 15-second original featurette. This uses the same format as “Legend” and includes circa 1989 remarks from Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck, Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy, Bruce Beresford and Alfred Uhry. Once again, we find zillions of film snippets along with a little decent behind the scenes footage. The interviews tend to sound bland and generic, and the featurette mostly feels like an extended trailer.

Miss Daisy’s Journey: From Stage to Screen runs 18 minutes and 36 seconds. While it shows some movie pieces and behind the scenes materials, it mostly focuses on the interviews; we hear from Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck, Alfred Uhry, Bruce Beresford, make-up artists Lynn Barber and Kevin Haney, production designer Bruno Rubeo, and composer Hans Zimmer. Though much of the material seems redundant after the commentary, “Journey” provides a nice synopsis of the filmmaking experience, and the inclusion of the folks who don’t appear elsewhere on the disc makes it more useful. “Journey” remains a basic documentary, but it works reasonably well nonetheless.

Not found on the 2003 DVD, Things Are Changing: The Worlds of Hoke and Miss Daisy lasts 28 minutes, 56 seconds and features comments from Uhry, Freeman, former Breman Jewish Museum president Tom Asher, Coming Full Circle author Morocco Coleman, University of Georgia History Professor Dr. Robert R. Pratt, and author/historian Janice Rothschild Blumberg. “Worlds” concentrates mostly on historical background related to the film’s themes, story elements and characters. It’s not an especially deep view of these subjects, but it offers some useful insights.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a hardcover book. It includes a mix of production notes, cast/crew bios, and a variety of photos. The book adds a few nice elements.

One of the weaker flicks to win the Best Picture Oscar, Driving Miss Daisy appears anachronistic and ordinary. The film becomes mildly entertaining at times, but it lacks much to make it truly compelling, and I dislike its sentimental treatment of the "good old days". The Blu-ray delivers generally good picture and audio along with a mostly satisfying selection of bonus materials. I’ll probably never think much of Daisy, but I feel pleased with this Blu-ray.

To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of DRIVING MISS DAISY

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main