By Jacob Mello (Austin, TX, US)

 

• A young getaway driver who uses a constant flow of music to battle a hearing disorder is strong-armed by a crime boss into taking one final job.
• Written and Directed by Edgar Wright: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
• Starring Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey.

The driving sequences and set pieces were exciting to watch, largely because unlike most driving movies, Edgar Wright made the choice to take the driving out of the green screened warehouse and onto actual roads, and that made all the difference.

The writer/director is known for blending genres together to make stories that feel fresh. With Baby Driver, he technically made an action heist/thriller crossbreed, but the way the action and movements were choreographed around the constant soundtrack, it really played more like a musical. Wright is a favorite of mine and he cooked up a sizable amount of intriguing ideas here, he just failed to put them together correctly.

I detested the song selection; and considering this is a movie that completely revolved around music, that’s a deal killer. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll absolutely be downloading the soundtrack along with everyone else – that mix was solid! – but in the context of the film, it was all wrong. The titular character, Baby, is a kid on an island. Completely submerged in the playlist blaring through his headphones, always. When we hear what he’s listening to, it should pull us in. It should have been personal, and maybe even embarrassing. Instead, because of the eclectic blend of classics, that the whole family could sing along to, it kept me at a permanent distance. I didn’t buy that this was Baby’s taste.

A weaker soundtrack would have made the character more endearing to the audience and added to the dynamic of his relationships exponentially. Anybody can relate over Al Green. Big deal. That’s like bonding over the weather. There’s nothing subjective about being into Simon and Garfunkel, but when the waitress asks what you’re listening to and the answer’s some song from a GWAR B-side, if that hits a nerve, then there’s a little more ground there to claim you’ve found true love. And while I’m at it, at the risk of sounding jaded, I’m calling for it: no more meet-cutes or relationship beginnings that happen over a headphone splitter. It was cute and intoxicating at first, now it just reeks of Hollywood bullshit.

There’s a list of other things I found wrong about this film, but I’m chalking the bulk of those up to a sort of ripple effect, collateral damage stemming from the song selections, which I’m sure were already, more or less, in place during the writing process.

Ansel Elgort was all wrong for the character of Baby (I can’t help but daydream about the possibility of a universe in which Baby is played by a young John Cusack or maybe even Christian Slater, and the soundtrack is a collection of tackier more tightly knit selections like Kiss and AC/DC) but he put out a solid performance and for the first time, I’d kind of like to see him do something bigger.

I see what Wright was going for and though he didn’t quite hit it, he got close enough to make the movie fun and keep me actively interested, though I never felt like I was having the blast I could have been.

PRESCRIPTION:

For a better movie that revolves around its soundtrack: Watch Garden State or Guardians of the Galaxy.

Rating: 3/5

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