Movie Review : Baby Driver (2017)
Everybody I know fell in love with Edgar Wright's new movie Baby Driver upon seeing the trailer last winter, after the movie premiere at South by Southwest festival. So did I, to be completely honest. The only Wright movie I've truly enjoyed was Scott Pilgrim vs The World, but it didn't matter. If anybody could pull off a whimsical crime movie with a premise suspiciously similar to Nicolas Winding's Refn's low-key masterpiece Drive, it seemed like Wright could. Three never-ending months have passed and Baby Driver has been unleashed upon our theater screens. So, is it good? I would like to tell you it is. That it's the movie badass trailers and enthusiastic critics have been selling you all spring. But, I would be lying to you.
It's just...kind of okay, really.
Baby Driver is the story of well...Baby (my fellow New York Knicks superfan Ansel Elgort), an preternaturally gifted getaway driver working back a debt he contracted to a local mobster (Kevin Spacey) after boosting his car several years ago. Baby is quite...special. He is still carrying several heavy traumas from his childhood, including the memory of seeing his parents die in a car accident. That accident gave him tinnitus, which he covers by constantly listening to music on old iPods, which turned him into a borderline autistic music nerd. Baby is looking forward to freedom without knowing exactly what to do with it. That changes the day he meets Debora (the gorgeous Lily James), a young waitress with a singing voice like no other.
Listen, Baby Driver is fun. There's a lot to like about it: reckless car chases around the city, outlandish gun fights, stylish outlaws and, perhaps the movie's calling card, a groundbreaking usage of music that would make it a borderline musical if there were people twirling in the street. But there aren't. Lots of what makes Baby Driver fun is what makes a Grand Theft Auto game fun, too. There are even subtler reminders of the iconic video games in the film: terrified pedestrians, disposable bad guys, ubiquitous cops and heavy traffic you can conveniently slide through if you drive recklessly enough. The only problem is that you don't get to wreak havoc over Atlanta yourself and that havoc loses its appeal when you don't get to fuck shit up yourself. I might get metaphorically pelted with rocks for saying this, but: Baby Driver doesn't add up to more than the sum of its parts.
My problem with Baby Driver is that it takes itself way too seriously for a bubblegum summer movie. None of the characters revolving around Baby has any depth, but somehow we're asked to take him seriously. I wouldn't have minded if Baby could be taken seriously, but he really is a James Dean-like fantasy yearning for freedom. He even falls in love with a diner waitress, for fuck's sake. How much more 1950s can it get? Baby Driver is a movie about freedom. About finding a life you want to pursue and figuring out a way to pursue it even if everything else is falling apart. It would've been great if it committed to what it actually trying to say or just tried to be simpler instead of wedging character scenes between hyperviolent gun fights and spectacular car chases. I had great difficulty caring about only two people in a movie that fetishizes violence so much. Nothing against fetishized violence in itself, but you either make it count for everyone or you don't make it count at all, you know?
Baby Driver is a good time, but it feels just a tiny bit hollow. People who dared criticizing it on social media were accused of hating fun and music, but let me tell you: the movie is fun and the music is fine. I can play Grand Theft Auto in my living room while blaring the latest Vince Staples album any time I goddamn want and I'm going to have fun while listening to great music. When I go see a movie in theater, I'm expecting a little more than that? I'm expecting a film to connect the dots with an engaging narrative and Baby Driver just didn't deliver in that regard. It's stylish, spectacular and plenty fun, but it's just not that engaging overall and the fact that it's trying to make a point about freedom and self-determination in such an over-the-top violent, bubblegum setting might have something to do with it. I might get a lot of flack for that, but I'm not onboard with Baby Driver. Wonder Woman and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 were much better movies. Make of that what you will, internet.