By Chaz Lipp

The 1989 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Driving Miss Daisy, has debuted on Blu-ray from Warner Brothers. It wasn’t a great movie then and the past 24 years haven’t been particularly kind to it. Jessica Tandy (who, at 81, became the oldest Best Actress Oscar winner) plays Miss Daisy Werthan. As the story begins in 1948, she’s a proudly self-sufficient 72-year-old widow whose independence is comprised when she wrecks her car and can’t get insured.

Her son, an entrepreneur with the odd name Boolie (Dan Aykroyd, nominated for Best Supporting Actor), hires a driver for her. Daisy bristles at the very idea of being chauffeured around and is initially extremely cold to Hoke (Morgan Freeman, nominated for Best Actor). Good natured and determined to win her over, Hoke keeps trying to befriend his employer until the ice finally breaks. Over the course of a quarter-century, Daisy and Hoke become extremely close friends. The Jewish Daisy even gets a direct glimpse into the racism faced by African-Americans when her synagogue is bombed.

Tandy is quite marvelous in the role, never making Daisy an easy woman to warm up to. While Freeman does what he can with Hoke, he unfortunately winds up making him a bit of a caricature due to the thin writing. Alfred Uhry’s screenplay (based on his own original stage play) seems intent on making Hoke more of a symbol than a flesh-and-blood person. There’s no dimension to Hoke; he’s just a really nice guy who doesn’t mind committing an inordinate effort to pleasing this cranky old woman. In a year that saw Glory passed over for a Best Picture nomination (though that one, too, dealt with racial injustice primarily from the point of view of a white protagonist), not to mention Spike Lee’s extraordinary classic Do the Right Thing, Driving Miss Daisy was a safe way for the Academy (and audiences) to acknowledge the problem of racism in America.

Warner Brothers offers a relatively strong high definition release for Driving Miss Daisy, though not one likely to serve as anyone’s demo disc when showing off their system. The 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer retains the pleasingly retro look of the cinematography (by Peter James). It’s a bit on the grainy side and also lacking (intentionally, it seems) in sharpness. The whole thing has a warm glow and seems to accurately reflect the filmmakers’ intentions. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is utter simplicity, allowing the dialogue and basic sound design to be heard with sufficient clarity.

There’s an impressive new half-hour featurette, “Things Are Changing,” that elaborates on the making of the film from a current perspective. Fans of the film will undoubtedly be pleased with this brand new production. Several previously available features have been carried over from the old standard DVD, including a director’s commentary and a few featurettes.
Chaz Lipp

One thought on “Blu-ray Quick Take: Driving Miss Daisy

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.