Looking for an easy watch this midterm season? Give “Baby Driver” a try. As far as fun, light-hearted summer blockbusters go, this is one prevailed. “Baby Driver” has it all—crime, romance, action and cars, topped off with a star-studded cast and a killer soundtrack.
Directed by Edgar Wright, who is known for his smart cinematography and comedic material, “Baby Driver” stars Baby, played by Ansel Elgort, a smooth get-away driver for sleazy sidekicks Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Bats (Jamie Foxx), in addition to crime boss Doc, portrayed by Kev- in Spacey. The plot centers around the various heists of the group and Baby’s inner conflict about whether he should or should not pursue his life of crime, especially in light of his unfolding romance with Lily James’ character. The movie is overall fun, but it does deliver moments of intensity and unease. There is also substantial comedic content intertwined with a retro edge.
What makes the movie stand out, though, is its incorporation of music. All of the action and driving is choreographed to carefully curated songs from an array of artists such as Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, T. Rex., the Beach Boys and Simon & Garfunkel. In fact, there is not a lot of dialogue in the movie—the film primarily uses the soundtrack to develop the plot, a revolutionary idea for an action movie.
The film begins with an action-packed opening scene of Baby getting ready to help his criminal pals drive away from a bank robbery. To build the intensity and give off a cool vibe, the movie plays none other than “Bellbottoms” by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. A few minutes later, we see the camera zoom in on Baby’s determined face as he masterfully escapes the ensuing policemen in his little red car to the amazement of his fellow criminals and the quickening beat of the song.
The movie continues with more action juxtaposed with softer moments. Intense getaway driving scenes are interspersed with tender moments where Baby is bonding or dancing with his deaf parent. The scene where Baby meets his crush, Deborah, is supposed to be sweet and awkward. They talk about music and all the songs that have their names in them. The contrast between the crime scenes and the sweet moments makes the viewer sympathize with Baby, the misunderstood but lovable hero stuck between a rock and a hard place. He’s a good guy who simply needs the money from his criminal exploits, and on the inside, he hates all of the violence.
For what it was, the movie was good. However, it is not without its flaws. The acting wasn’t spectacular. Ansel Elgort always had a serious look of concentration on his face that made him seem a little too simplistic at times. While Baby can be a likable character in some respects, he really was a flat one overall. Jamie Foxx’s character was perhaps the best because he provided comedic relief.
Another bothersome aspect of the film was its portrayal of women. Lily James’ character is depicted as utterly helpless and foolishly in love. Her main scenes in the movie show her her waiting tables while singing “B-A-B-Y,” waiting for a cute stranger such as Baby to come along and sweep her off her feet.
Besides Lily James’ character Deborah, there is only one other female character in the movie, and she’s one of Baby’s criminal sidekicks. This role had the potential for more positive representation of a woman, but alas it too succumbs to a disgusting gender archetype as the role could essentially be described as Jon Hamm’s sexy girlfriend. The character, played by Eiza Gonzalez, is mostly shown making out with Jon Hamm and having to be protected by a man. She is only acknowledged in relation to her male criminal counterpart. The extreme male-centeredness of the female roles was appalling, but unfortunately not surprising, as it harkened back to almost ev- ery other action movie in Hollywood.
Besides the musical aspect and blatant sexism, “Baby Driver” was predictable. We’ve heard it all before—our beloved hero does some questionable action-packed deeds, he vies for the girl with his expected heterosexual orientation, broods over the mistakes he’s made and ponders his conflicting interests and then somehow manages to save the day in the end. This, coupled with the bad acting, and we think, “Ugh! Boring!”
Actually, dissecting the movie’s problems is making me question how I could have truly liked it in the first place. I’m especially wary of saying that I liked it on account of realizing how problematic its representation of women is, a true fatal flaw of the film. However, I think its incorporation of music was where its appeal mostly lies. The music and film pairing, which made the movie flow like a sequence of music videos, added a different dimension to the cinematography.
I think Wright’s intention was to take the typical underdog-turned-hero action-movie tem- plate and add a new element to complement the movement in the movie. Also, unlike the plot, the songs were not predictable. They were incredibly well-timed, meticulously chosen and well-varied throughout genres and paces.
Overall, “Baby Driver” is an entertaining movie that presents the audience with a new take on cinema. Could it have a better plot and character representation? Definitely. But I still think it is worth your time, especially if you like action movies that are easy not to take seriously.