Driving Miss Daisy

Inciting Event: Daisy’s son Boolie hires Hoke to be his mother’s chauffeur—even though she adamantly doesn’t want one. This scene occurs (just as it should) halfway through the First Act at about the twelve-minute mark. But isn’t the opening scene in which Daisy crashes her car (thus creating the need for a chauffeur) the one that starts off the plot? Yep. It starts the plot. But it’s not the Inciting Event because it doesn’t start off the conflict. This isn’t a story about an old lady who can’t drive. This is a story about the relationship between a cranky old lady and her big-hearted chauffeur. That relationship (that conflict) doesn’t kick off until the Inciting Event when Hoke is introduced and hired.

First Plot Point: Daisy finally surrenders to Hoke’s persistence and allows him to drive her to the grocery store. Here, she physically steps into the car, which is, for all intents and purposes, the “adventure world” of the Second Act.

First Pinch Point: Daisy discovers Hoke has eaten one of her cans of tuna, and she demands that Boolie fires him on grounds of stealing—only to have Hoke arrive, unconcernedly apologize, and offer the new tuna can he brought to replace the old one (which he ate in desperation because the pork chops Daisy had given him were “a little stiff”).

This isn’t a story with a strong antagonistic force. Daisy’s own resistance and ingrained prejudice toward Hoke is the only antagonist—and it slowly evolves and dissipates over the course of the story. Here, we see it being emphasized in her determined suspicions and false accusations toward Hoke. But then it quickly dissolves, as Hoke proves himself to her and Boolie, thus turning the plot.

Midpoint: Daisy and Hoke go on a road trip to visit Daisy’s brother. The absolute subtlety in this Midpoint is interesting. Nothing happens here that is, in itself, a definitive plot point. Rather, we simply see the story turning into its new direction: Daisy and Hoke are now more friends than not. She now trusts him enough to allow him to drive her from Georgia to Alabama.

Second Pinch Point: Daisy’s long-time maid Idella dies. The pinch here is subtle (as are all the turning points in this movie), as it serves to emphasize the overall antagonist: Daisy’s and Hoke’s own hastening old age. It also effectively turns the plot by forcing Daisy to become more and more reliant on Hoke for assistance and companionship.

Third Plot Point: The Temple Daisy attends is bombed. I would argue that this is the weakest structural moment in the story. Although it does a fine job of emphasizing death and forcing Daisy to a moment of personal fear and grief, it doesn’t do much to turn the main plot. It leads directly into Daisy’s attendance of a dinner featuring Martin Luther King, Jr., but the connection is thin at best and doesn’t do much to alter her relationship with Hoke (whom she still refuses to bring in to the dinner with her).

Climax: Hoke discovers Daisy is growing confused—believing she is still a teacher who needs to get to class. Their time together is just about over, as Boolie decides to send her to a rest home.

Climactic Moment: Daisy breaks out of her mental fog long enough to look Hoke in the eye and tell him “you’re my best friend.” The conflict between them is over. She finally accepts him and acknowledges his place of importance in her life.

Resolution: Boolie sells Daisy’s house, and he and Hoke visit her in the rest home, where Hoke helps her eat her pumpkin pie.

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