11 April 2004 | khatcher-2
Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy in a heart-warming, human story
Maybe 'the Shawshank Redemption' (1994) (qv) is a bigger, better, more brazen film, with far more pretensions, and is, of course, an excellent film: but I cannot avoid thinking that it is in 'Driving Miss Daisy' that Morgan Freeman develops his best rôle, playing so well opposite the unrepeatable Jessica Landry. I have not seen all of Freeman's films, nor do I wish to. Of those I have seen he is more or less 'O.K.' as you might say; What makes 'Driving Miss Daisy' work is the human and humane compassion and sympathy flowing between the two lead actors, with Dan Ackroyd, surprisingly, and Esther Rolle both lending a good hand. One might argue that it is 'only' an oversweetened sentimental story; be that as it may, the film endeavours to portray the aging relationship between the white Jewish rich woman and her poor black chauffeur throughout 25 years. And Jessica Landry was over eighty years old when she made this film. In this aspect, evidently the film succeeds, as the story itself is really of secondary importance: it is the beautifully filmed scenes and the dialogues which build up to something greater than the story per se. In an age dominated by cinema stuffed with violence, sex, special effects and so on, here is an example without such measures, relying on pure acting and interpretative skills so as to tell a clean simple story. You might well like to compare this film with Lindsay Anderson's 'The Whales of August' (1987) (qv), with an absolutely unrepeatable cast with Lillian Gish, Bette Davis, Vincent Price and Ann Sothern: a delicious retrospective piece. 'Driving Miss Daisy' was meticulously made, with all those cars of the 50's and 60's and the careful scene settings, brought out by excellent photography, and all backed up by what must be Hans Zimmer's most appropriate and touching score. His score was also good in that tremendous film 'Thelma and Louise' as well as in 'The House of the Spirits' and 'Beyond Rangoon' (1995) (qv). 'Driving Miss Daisy' is one of those videos in my collection which I am pleased to blow the dust off and watch yet again: it is still as charming as ever.