Thursday, December 27, 2012
Driving Miss Daisy
I was hanging out at my sister's house on Christmas and there was so little on, Driving Miss Daisy was actually the only thing even remotely appealing. In case you don't know, Driving Miss Daisy is the 1989 Oscar winning film about an elderly woman living in the South in the 50s who befriends her African American chauffeur. It's a sweet, charming film that is likable, wonderfully acted, and beautifully shot.
But it also really sucks.
To begin with, it's just really long and really boring, with almost nothing much to speak of in the way of plot movement or forward momentum of any real story arc, beyond Miss Daisy only kind of being less of a bitch to one, since black man over the course of 25 years. Granted, there are worse fates than being forced to watch an over-long film starring people like Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, and Dan Akroyd, all of whom are always great and definitely at the top of their games here. Tandy even won the Best Actress Oscar while Morgan Freeman and Dan Akroyd were both nominated for Oscars as well. As I said, I have nothing but raves about the cast, all of whom were great, including Dan Akroyd who turned in a surprisingly sweet and effective performance.
However... the story just sucked. It was well intentioned and sweet at its core (a woman in the south begins to see her servant as a human instead of just a thing she can harass), but it was so poorly thought-out it was borderline racist in places. I rarely like films about oppression told from the point of view of the oppressors, with the sole intent being the redemption of those oppressors.
Quick... name five Hollywood films that deal with oppression in America in the South before or during the Civil Rights movement.
Now how many of those films have white actors as the main point of view characters? All of them?
And this movie's structure is a little worse than most. Morgan Freeman is wonderful and charming as Hoke, the driver of the titular Miss Daisy, but I don't think he has a single scene where he is alone or allowed to be himself. In every scene he is acting opposite either Miss Daisy or Miss Daisy's son. Miss Daisy, of course, is given most of the film to explore her motivations, thoughts, history, and sense of character. Hoke, on the other hand, is just a charming, good natured driver from start to finish. There isn't one single scene that I can remember where he is given any real sense of character or nuance. He exists solely to give Miss Daisy her personal redemption.
So just like the white people about whom this story is written used a black man as a servant, the filmmakers used this film as a black man just as a plot point, not as a character.
But, yeah, it's charming and funny, but that only kind of made it all the worse, in my opinion, since it belittled and glossed over the real story of what was happening back then.
But that's just me. Maybe I read too much into it.