Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jessica Tandy in Driving Miss Daisy

Jessica Tandy received her first Oscar nomination and only Oscar for playing Daisy Werthan, a grumpy, old Jewish woman in Bruce Beresford's Best Picture-winning movie, Driving Miss Daisy and by this she became the oldest performer to win an Academy Award for acting. It really meant a lot to her career as she went on to receive a second nomination for Fried Green Tomatoes (for which she should have won). Eventually, she beat out Michelle Pfeiffer, the critics' darling (to the dismay of many) and received one of the longest standing ovations.

How much I love Driving Miss Daisy! Oh my goodness, I cannot even count how many times I've seen it, but I guess it's somewhere around ten now, and it still moves me so much that I cannot stop weeping. It's a really beautiful flick, which is unfortunately not very popular nowadays. I guess that it's due to the fact that this is a slow movie with not much story or action. Morgan Freeman received an extremely well-deserved Actor nom, which he deserved to win (but picking DDL was probably the right choice). Dan Aykroyd is also much better than I remembered.

But something came to my mind: I think this was the very first time that I saw this movie in English actually. Please don't blame me as the Hungarian dubbing for this movie is just legendary and brilliant. But now I just had to watch in the original language, but it did not disappoint that much either.

The movie is this great mainly because of one very-very important factor: the brilliant chemistry between the two leads. Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman got such lovely roles that it would have been quite a miracle if they hadn't been able to please the audience (which includes me). They are all so charming together with Tandy representing the fire and Freeman representing the water in this complicated friendship between two elderly people. They really shine in this movie. I think giving them an award together at the Berlin Film Festival was quite probably one of the best decisions about a prize. Their performances strictly work together and they are so entertaining, funny, lifelike and despite some small argument about silly things, there's such calmness there.

But about Tandy alone: I have always been championing her work in this one and I'm not saying that I was not pleased by her this time, because I watched her with enthusiasm and she was just pure delight. Miss Daisy is a very grumpy and stubborn lady, but her sarcastic remarks are simply hilarious and Tandy really nailed the comedy parts. Even when there's some human drama in the previous scenes, she can make it lighter with a funny scene in the kitchen where she turns down the gas only after carefully making it sure, that she's alone.

There's not much action with her character and she doesn't really change in the story, but I don't think that it's much of a trouble: she doesn't give a very deep performance, but the role doesn't need it. There are some subtly emotional scenes, but there are no showy scenes or huge monologues when she can show complicated emotions. Except for one, which really rocks. When she talks about her childhood experience when she was travelling with her family for the first time, I really had to struggle to keep my tears. There's so much beauty in that scene: you can see an elderly person reminiscing about her youth. Tandy was really able to show the background story of Miss Daisy. You can see her as an excited little girl. It's definitely one of the most moving scenes I've ever seen.

However, while watching the "You're my best friend" scene, I ulitimately gave up the struggling with my teardrops. It's a very silent and subtle moment, but there is so much beauty in its simplicity: Tandy had an effect on me with very simple acting, which is a great achievement as the scene really had the danger of becoming too sentimental. Tandy held herself back brilliantly though and was just brilliant.

And these few minutes give a great summary of Tandy's whole performance here: it's very subtle and nice work, which may not go that deep, but is able to entertain, please and move the viewer and she makes it very sure that you never forget her. She's like a good book that you love to read even for the twentieth time. Nice, charming work.
So what do you think?


joe burns said...

I'm gonna say Michelle will win now, though I personally feel that Tandy's character does change, she comes to not become racist, and becomes more accepting....

dinasztie said...

Well, I might have been said better things about Michelle but there are 3 other ladies. And 5 is not a very bad rating for Tandy after all :)

Louis Morgan said...

Positive very positive, but not quite as the last I think. Also I agree she is very good.

RC said...

I think she really did a fine job "creating a character" here and I think a memorable one at that.

I'm glad she's the oldest win for a character like this!