I mean yeah, the main character was a gaping black hole of nothingness (aside from the love for his girlfriend, and mildly unhealthy [sarcasm] loyalty to his job), but I think that’s why the movie works. We go to see movies to escape, certainly, but we also go to be moved, both emotionally, mentally, adrenally, and if it’s a very good movie, perhaps spiritually.
This idea of connection is what Edgar Wright has always gotten so right (sorry). He has crafted films which tie the ordinary joe (or perhaps just an ordinary situation of some kind) and adds a twist, in a sort of mild magical realism. Shaun of the Dead: two ordinary losers (one working in retail, the other jobless) get embroiled in a zombie invasion. Hot Fuzz: a small, quiet village (you’ve got one in mind, whether you grew up there, or have mildly racist aunts and uncles there) turns out to have a dark and twisted secret. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: Almost everything in this movie is relatable, especially to a college student.
In Baby Driver, there’s not the exact same sort of connection. It’s about a getaway driver for heists, and the setting is the criminal world. The average audience member won’t connect with either of these things, but Wright does something magical in his storytelling, whether it’s on purpose or not: he makes the audience pay attention to the story, and not the main character.
Now granted, I was still invested in whether the guy got the girl, whether he would get revenge, who lived and died etc., but because of Baby’s rather dull persona, the audience is forced to sort of “take him on as themselves.” This creates an entirely new sort of plot for Wright, as his characters are usually scarily relatable. He does the exact opposite here, but ends with the same effect, if not a stronger one.
This could be taken negatively, as some critics have pointed out that Baby doesn’t have much charisma. This isn’t true however, it’s just a very loose character which allows the audience to fill in all the details. He had a tough family life, likes a girl at a restaurant and cares about his foster dad. There’s just enough personal details to create a skeletal structure that the audience can craft themselves around. Whether it’s purposeful or not, this was incredibly well done, and Wright should get credit for this abnormal twist on a lead character.
One of the constants throughout the movie was Baby’s music, his “different iPods for different days,” and the pathos-filled reason for why he listens to music all the time. Wright uses this interesting aspect of Baby’s character to connect more with the everyday movie-watcher, as nearly everyone (musical anhedoniacs aside) appreciates music in one way or another. I personally listen to music as much as possible, while reading, writing, driving, et. al (Fairly confident I can use “et al” in this fashion). I may not have recognized a solid 50% of the songs in the movie (Queen’s “Brighton Rock” being one of the few that I knew) but I could appreciate Baby’s diversity in musical taste. It made the character real, and four-dimensional. The varied music allowed me to become Baby, and picture myself doing all the things he did.
Baby Driver won’t be my favorite Wright movie (to be confirmed at a second watching when I purchase the film) but it will go down as one of the better movies in Trump’s first year as President. The shots are wonderful, effects on-point, acting amazing, a stellar plot avec twists and a realistic ending, something that most modern films have just completely forgotten. Most importantly, Baby Driver connects the viewer to the movie, making them a part of it.
We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Car chases, bank heists and standoffs with gangsters are typically things that the average American can only dream about, or watch on the silver screen. Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver allows us into another world, one more exciting than ours, through simple connections: music, love, and a whole lot of family-fueled pathos. And most importantly, no one made a single Dirty Dancing joke.
Baby Driver Earns Three Clarks out of a Possible Four.