A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Driving Miss Daisy is an Oscar-winning 1989 drama showing the close friendship formed between an elderly white woman and the African American man employed as her driver. The movie is set in Atlanta, from the post-WWII years to the Civil Rights Era. While on a road trip, a trooper refers to them as a "'N" word and "old Jew woman." Daisy's synagogue is bombed, not shown, which reminds Hoke of the aftermath of a lynching he witnessed as a young boy in rural Georgia, in which he found his friend's father hanging from a tree. While the movie avoids overt displays of racism or the direct actions of the Civil Rights Movement, it does show the complexities and contradictions of a society rooted in Jim Crow racism. For instance, while Daisy's son Boolie, a successful businessman, supports the message of Martin Luther King, Jr., he's worried that public expressions of support for civil rights would, as a Jewish American man in the South, cost him his business relationships. Daisy, while claiming not be prejudiced, doesn't invite Hoke to a speech she attends given by Dr. King until Hoke is driving Daisy to the speech; while falsely accusing Hoke of stealing from her pantry, she tells Boolie "they all take things, you know." For his part, Hoke, despite living in a world of overt and institutional racism, always maintains his dignity, and seems to find a way to make a system that is structured against him to work for in his favor. The movie explores these themes, as well as themes of trying to maintain one's independence while aging, and how the bond of friendship can transcend the challenging realities of time and place.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
DRIVING MISS DAISY is the tale of an unlikely friendship between two people who need each other. Daisy Werthan (Jessica Tandy) is an elderly Jewish widow who needs a chauffeur and Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman) is a career chauffeur who needs income. The independent Miss Daisy resists being driven and Hoke, who was hired by Miss Daisy's son (Dan Aykroyd), employs patience and grace to make the transition. Hoke is a black man and though Daisy doesn't believe she is racist or prejudiced, she's confronted with the issue on more than one occasion. The two realize that though their income levels separate them, they are both targets of hatred based simply on who they are.
Is it any good?
Though this movie is charming and not at all violent or raunchy, it's nonetheless an adult movie. The themes of prejudice and racism and growing old are presented in Driving Miss Daisy in a way that's a bit too heavy for young kids.
Grown-ups will probably enjoy watching the friendship that develops between the two main characters, though some may be put off by Miss Daisy's sour attitude and her refusal to budge on some issues that have to do with treating Hoke more like a friend and less like a servant. Hoke, on the other hand, is such a war-hearted gentleman that he balances out the negativity and brings the most beauty to the film.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about racism and prejudice as well as friendship. What types of racism or prejudice have you experienced? Why do you think it's difficult for people to see beyond a person's skin color or religion? Do you have any friendships with people who are outwardly very different?
How did the movie explore the contradictions Daisy and Boolie struggled with during the Civil Rights Era, in terms of what they believed as conviction as opposed to what they were willing to put into practice in the real world? What would be lost in the movie if these characters were simply on side of the issue or the other?
Is the movie still relevant today? If so, how?
- In theaters: June 16, 1990
- On DVD or streaming: April 30, 1997
- Cast: Dan Aykroyd, Esther Rolle, Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, Patti LuPone
- Director: Bruce Beresford
- Studio: Warner Home Video
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, History
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild language
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award
- Last updated: May 6, 2020
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