Baby Driver

baby_driver_ver2STARS4Ok, can we get one thing out of the way first? Baby Driver is a terrible title. It sounds like either (1) a frivolous comedy about a chauffeur who works for a rich baby or (2) about an infant who can literally drive. Perhaps the follow-up sequel to DreamWorks’ animated hit The Boss Baby. None of this is correct. Baby, as it turns out, is the nickname of Ansel Elgort’s character, but he isn’t a baby. He’s a young man. He is a motorist though, a getaway driver actually. That much is true. Baby suffers from hearing loss. He incurred this ailment as a child when he was in a car accident which killed both his parents. To cope with the constant humming in his ears, he listens to music…all the time…on his iPod. That’s the set-up but it’s really just a great excuse to play a lot of classic songs.

Baby is a man of few words. He’s cool, laid back – a soft faced James Dean for our era. He’s a bit of a mystery, but we know he’s good at what he does. We’ve seen him in action. In the opening scene, he skillfully maneuverers the car that bank robbers Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), and Griff (Jon Bernthal) jump into after their heist. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s 1995 single “Bellbottoms” blasts away in his headphones. Baby is employed as a getaway driver for Doc (Kevin Spacey), an intimidating crime boss that plans heists. Not entirely by choice. Baby is indebted to Doc for having stolen one of his cars. He’s currently working off the debt he incurred. Baby rarely speaks, often retreating into the world of the tunes playing on his iPod. You see, his music is our music. That is, what he hears and the score of the film, is exactly the same thing.

The movie is a cinematic construct, a heart-stirring, toe-tapping production in which diegetic music is synchronized to the action on the screen. Think of it as a jukebox musical in which director Edgar Wright has decided to assemble a playlist of 30+ songs that just so happen to have a story attached. Selections run the gamut from various eras but they mostly favor oldies before the 1980s. The Beach Boys, Carla Thomas, Queen, Barry White, The Commodores, Simon & Garfunkel, who provide the movie’s title, all have their moment. However, a few comparatively later compositions from the likes of Young MC, Beck, and Blur pop up too. “The Harlem Shuffle” is a particularly breathtaking set piece. We’re talking the 1963 original by Bob & Earl, not the Stones version. Sorry, it’s my age, but I can’t detect those opening horn blasts without thinking I’m about to hear “Jump Around” by House of Pain. The minor R&B hit underscores the second scene after the first heist, where Baby walks through the town while the city life happens in sync with the music. It’s a beautifully realized vignette that has to be seen multiple times to appreciate the complexity of its many details. Check out the graffiti on the walls that match the lyrics of the number.

The plot is kind of incidental but it provides the framework for a charismatic ensemble that meshes together like a finely tuned automotive machine. Baby’s foster father is a deaf man in a wheelchair named Joseph (CJ Jones) whom he cares for. They communicate via sign language. Baby goes to Bo’s Diner where he meets a pretty young waitress named Debora (Lily James), spelled exactly like a ditty by English glam rock band T. Rex. Then there’s the aforementioned Doc (Kevin Spacey), the crime boss for whom Baby works.Β Doc is capable of murder, but he’s frighteningly calm. You know that beneath his placid exterior there lies an evil temperament. “Your waitress girlfriend is cute,” he says to Baby. “Let’s keep it that way.” Doc assembles a rotating crew for each job. Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), and Griff (Jon Bernthal) comprise the first team. Eddie No-Nose (Flea), JD (Lanny Joon), and Bats (Jamie Foxx) form another. Somewhere along the line, Paul Williams pops up as an arms dealer known as The Butcher. Unifying all the disparate parts is Baby, a criminal with a heart.

Baby Driver is a whole lot of action, a little comedy and a touch of romance. It’s a classic heist flick that conveniently builds to “one last job”. The screenplay weaves a simple story amidst a profusion of pop culture tunes. This amalgamation of constant music. quick cut editing and swooping cinematography is extremely showy. At times, it’s oppressively so. I was keenly aware of the director’s hand more than once. The unrelenting style subverts genuine emotion for an illustration of love. Ansel Elgort and Lily James are more like the symbol of an on-screen couple than the genuine article. But we’ve got elaborate chase sequences choreographed to music. If action bang for your movie buck is what you want, then you’ll get your money’s worth. I simply can’t overstate how exhilarating this whole exercise is. The flashy production is presented with technique and panache. It’s like a shiny new sports car — albeit one built with some previously available parts. The director himself has cited The Driver, Reservoir Dogs, Point Break, Heat and The Blues Brothers as influences. While it may have been assembled from the building blocks of previous films, there’s certainly no denying the craft that went into making it. In a summer of sequels and franchise installments, Edgar Wright’s vision is a distinctly welcome breath of fresh air.



23 Responses to “Baby Driver”

  1. smilingldsgirl Says:

    Yeah it was really a fun film. I enjoyed it a lot

    • Glad you enjoyed it. I know you generally avoid R-rated films. How did you decide to see this one?

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        I asked a lot of people and they said it was mostly language and that the violence was brief and not too gratuitous so I decided to risk it. R rated films are on case by case basis for me and a lot of times I depend on my friends for their feedback on tone and feel of a film. is also very helpful and looking at their review it seemed like a more mild R and I’d agree with them

      • I just checked out for the first time. It does list the profanity and violence as extreme which is accurate. The ending contained images as strong as anything I’ve seen this year. If you think this is mild R then I think you’re ready for some Tarantino. 😁

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Ha. I doubt that but who knows.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        But screenit is a great resource and well worth the account fee. It was such a silly movie that tone plays a role. Anyway it’s not an exact science but I do my best to make good content choices. LOL

      • Yes, the tone, laughs mixed with bloody violence, is very Tarantino-esque. Odd though that a rom-com like The Big Sick gets an R rating as well. These films are worlds apart in terms of content that could be considered objectionable.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        I’ve only started Pulp Fiction twice and it was too much for me. I’m a random person I guess. Shrug

      • Tarantino isn’t tame. My point is that Baby Driver has some pretty violent content as well, particularly for people who are opposed to such things. Based on that, I wouldn’t have recommended this to you. I’m happy you enjoyed it though just kind of shocked. 😲

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        I guess the violence goes by pretty fast so maybe that’s why it didnt upset me like other films? I don’t know. Oh well. Ha

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        But honestly my friends play a big role. It’s why I saw Nocturnal Animals, Hacksaw Ridge, Silence, Baby Driver. Clearly sometimes that pays off. Other times not so much. I’m a random girl. LOL

  2. Great review! Everyone seems to love this film. I can’t wait to see it.

  3. If the essence of Steve McQueen could be distilled into a movie, it’d take the form of Baby Driver. This and the first Guardians film carry so much swagger it’s almost too much. But it’s controlled enough to make the style-over-substance argument weak in my view. (I cited the first Guardians film bc I felt the second was way too self aware, the effect was lost.)

    Great review dude

    • I like that – the essence of Steve McQueen. It’s no wonder you’re a writer. πŸ˜€

      • Haha, thanks my friend. In fairness, I *think* I may have been inspired by a piece I read elsewhere, that mentioned how McQueen-y this movie felt. But I just have to agree. This thing is magic.

      • Thanks for the honesty but I think it’s only necessary to give credit for a totally unique thought. Honestly, I’m sure lots of people saw Steve McQueen in this so it’s cool.

  4. This was something I’m not used to seeing. A movie dedicated to the music surrounding various situations. It was everywhere. Loved that. So much fun. 4 stars

  5. Joy The Witch Says:

    Nice review!! And yes the title of the film is stupid πŸ˜›

  6. Interesting review, I personally love the title just because it’s so different, and to call your hero ‘Baby’ is a risk worth taking because it’s just such a ‘F*** You’ to the usual action hero names. Plus there’s definitely a bit of irony there too. Do check out my article about this film here: Great review, please check out my own article about this film here:

    • Music is so important to the story. I suspect Edgar Wright got the title “Baby Driver” from the song by Simon & Garfunkel – one of the many tunes heard in the film. Makes perfect sense after having seen the film. Just found it confusing to people who hadn’t.

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