Baby Driver is the most recent filmic endeavour of Edgar Wright, a director who has gone from strength to strength in developing his own signature filmic style. Wright’s films are known to be packed with well stylised humour and fast paced action. Baby Driver is no exception, but what the film packs in style it lacks in story.
Following the experiences of young getaway driver, Baby (Ansel Elgort), the film is an ambitious and masterfully choreographed sonic experience. Wright reportedly gained the idea for the film while listening to ‘Bell Bottoms’ by the The John Spencer Blues Explosion, realising it would make the perfect car chase song (also extending upon the 2003 video clip he directed for Mint Royale). And so the film begins, with a heist timed meticulously to the 5 minute and 18 second jam. We as the audience remain in the car with Baby, experiencing the perfectly timed tempo and movement changes alongside and with him. Its the kind of opening that’s sure to have you tapping your feet and wishing your car-trips were equally as well paced.
This is a story about music, Baby suffers from tinnitus – a consequence of a childhood car accident leaving him with a permanent ringing in his ears. To drown out the sound, Baby becomes a mere extension of his ipod, using various forms of the electronic device as the soundtrack to his life. He’s never without his earbuds and music becomes the way he see’s- and to a degree feels -the world. While a beautiful concept and one many music lovers would understand (I meticulously select my shower songs, my walking songs, my driving songs and my running songs in accordance with the pace I require for each action) Wright’s relies to music and style to guide the film do come to affect its story, which is still less light on than you’d expect from most action films.
The good-guy (Baby) caught up in the fray of criminal activity, stuck because of not quite clear past actions, and a debt he owes syndicate boss Doc (played by Kevin Spacey). He’s clearly lonely and while his life seems empty and his actions listless, Wright more carefully plays into a sense of untapped vulnerability. He doesn’t belong alongside the likes of high life drug addicts Buddy and Darling ( Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzales) or of reckless sociopathic criminals like Bats (played by Jamie Foxx). Its not redemption but freedom that Baby is after.
This sense of liberation is what Baby thinks he has found in adorable old school diner waitress, Debora (Lily James). A blonde youth with an endearingly twangy accent, a melodic voice and an overly friendly nature. Baby is immediately smitten. But Debora’s bland and over done character acts a mere projection of his deceased mother, who as flashbacks tell us he very much adored. Freud was definitely smiling in his grave at this sequence. But apart from being his mother-come-love interest Debora apparently isn’t given the room to become her own person. Agreeable, frustrating naive and about as 3- dimensional as a piece of paper, she falls into a deep lust with Baby after he utters all of 5 sentences to her. These sentences, as he tells her, are more than he’s spoken to anyone all year. Perhaps broody is her thing, but girl can’t you see red flags???. Subsequently after one date and all of 1 1/2 conversations (of no more than 10 syllables apiece) she seems content to head out onto the open road with Baby, even shooting someone dead in front of her doesn’t seem enough to disuade her from this relative stranger.
While this is Baby’s story and it’d be rich for his love interest to have an extensive backstory, Debora, just like the diner she’s in is a carbon copy of the 50’s or 60’s love interest. It’s poor character writing, not something you’d expect from the likes of Edgar Wright , but her compliance seems to fit the tempo of the music. And so the Tarantino-esq action, tid-bits of witty comedy and all round high energy scenes unfurl in a undeniably beautifully choreographed film. Dear Edgar, there is no denying that you have music and moves down pat, but when it comes to women – baby you can do better.