Baby Driver is a genre bending film, combining elements of the musical, action, romantic comedy, and car-chase. B-A-B-Y is more than a name, more than a syllabic title. It’s expressive of a character who is unable to communicate his feelings through speech, much like a child. Instead, music is needed to express and lock away a world that refuses to allow his eccentricities.
Edgar Wright weaves an intricate and choreographed film centered around “Baby.” A driving savant, he is a getaway driver and good luck charm of Doc (Kevin Spacey), an all business underworld boss, who Baby owes. He’s surrounded by Bats (Jamie Foxx), which stands for bat-shit-crazy, Buddy (Jon Hamm)—a drug and thrill addicted former Wall Street broker, and Darling (Eliza Gonzalez)—the Harley Quinn to Buddy’s Joker.
At its heart, Baby Driver is a musical. Edgar Wright was well aware he was creating one when he tied music so intricately to his car chase scenes, and to Baby’s life. Don’t believe me? Watch the sequences when Baby dances and mouths the words to every throwback song he can find. Non-Diegetic sound, the character is aware of music playing in the scene, combined with choreographed dance moves (in multiple scenes)—it has all the markings of a musical. A musical that’s better than La La Land (No one can be a worse dancer than Ryan Gosling).
Still not sold? In a musical, the music is the primary language of expression for the characters. Is Spacey breaking out in song-and-dance? No (Though he could). But Baby, a character who suffers from tinnitus, and his foster-father, a deaf man whose only interpretation of sound is the vibrations he feels when he presses his hand to speakers, clearly use music as their primary language. With each track selection, there is an expression of a language that can’t be demonstrated through hand movements or spoken word.
Much of the film centers around car chases, and the opening sequence set to ‘Bellbottoms’ by the John Spencer Blues Explosion, is just as supremely choreographed as any musical dance number in Singin’ in the Rain. Couple that with Baby creating music within the film, as he records conversations—spoken word—and reinterprets them into the language he knows—music—he creates remixes that reimagines the world as he hears it.
Throughout the film, the heists that Baby and his co-conspirators partake in are mostly secondary, especially once Baby develops a love interest, Debora (Lily James). Her performance is mostly flat as she can’t get past smiling at everything Baby says. There is very little substance to her performance. Some of that is the limitation of the role, and some of it is Ansel Elgort, whose performance as Baby has all of the makings of a future star, as he holds his own against a couple of Oscar winners and is able to create more emotions with his facial expressions than words.
While Baby Driver doesn’t display classic song-and-dance sequences, it does a better job of expressing and creating a world where music is a love and a language than La La Land. Nevertheless, the hyper choreographed car chases and Baby’s dance sequences—as he “dodges” pedestrians who are invaders in his private music video—combines the best parts of Guardians of the Galaxy with Reservoir Dogs. Baby Driver is a combination of an action, car chase, and romantic comedy, and it’s also the best musical of the last 10 years.
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Photo credit: maxim.com