DRIVING MISS DAISY (1989) is the motion picture version of Alfred Uhry's 1988 Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Beginning in 1948 and spanning the next 25 years, this film follows the relationship between a wealthy Jewish woman and her African-American chauffeur. Over the course of the leisurely-paced story, the film deals with issues of race, class, and old age with warmth and humor.
Jessica Tandy (in one of her final film roles before her death in 1994) is the title character, an aging Southern woman who, after a minor car accident, receives a driver hired by her son (played by Dan Ackroyd, doing an excellent job in his first non-comedic role). Morgan Freeman stars as Hoke Colburn, the driver who slowly attempts to get the stubborn Miss Daisy to accept the limits of her age. Their friendship and trust grow over the years, despite the racial and social barriers between them.
This is one of the best films of the 1980s. It is touching, funny, poignant, and thought-provoking at all the right times. It will leave you with a new appreciation for the elderly and the inner conflict that is experienced when one loses the freedom to accomplish even the most elementary tasks. The movie also effectively shows the social attitudes of the South during this time period, without the heavy-handedness or finger pointing that can be found in many similar films. This movie was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won four (including Best Actress and Best Picture of the Year). I highly recommend this film for viewing by the entire family.
Unfortunately, the picture quality of this DVD does not live up to the quality of the movie itself. Throughout the feature, the video is noticeably soft and there is significant grain and shimmering (mostly in backgrounds). The picture also has a slightly washed-out appearance and is not as detailed as we have come to expect from the format. On a positive note, colors are solid and consistent.
In addition to the soft video, I can't help but be disappointed in Warner's decision to release this DVD full-frame, rather than in the original 1.85:1 theatrical ratio. (The previous 1993 LaserDisc release was properly letterboxed.) Although this is an open-matte transfer and no picture material is cut off, a film of this quality deserves to be displayed with the proper framing.
The audio is a reasonably good, given the genre of film. The dialog in this Dolby Surround mix is always crisp and easy to understand. There is effective panning on the front soundstage and the music on the soundtrack has a pleasant, open quality to it. The surround channel is used sparingly and is virtually unnoticeable during the film.
The DVD includes the theatrical trailer (presented full-frame) along with the usual Warner cast biographies and production notes. There is also a French language track and subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
The film itself is wonderful, but the generic presentation (in terms of video quality, aspect ratio, extras) keeps this DVD from being highly recommended. Instead, I recommend this title as an inexpensive purchase or perhaps a rental. We can only hope that Warner decides to revisit this modern classic soon and release an improved edition.