SXSW Film Review: ‘Baby Driver’
With “Baby Driver,” Edgar Wright believes he has made a movie about music, about the way that some people absolutely, positively require music in their lives. But “Baby Driver” is actually a movie about obsession — a rowdy heist movie-cum-romance, to be precise — about a guy named Baby who has different iPods depending on his mood, who hardly ever takes his earbuds out, whose favorite singer was his mother (now deceased), and who falls in love with a diner waitress who reminds him of dear old mom.
Like all Edgar Wright movies, “Baby Driver” is a blast, featuring wall-to-wall music and a surfeit of inspired ideas. But it’s also something of a mess, blaring pop tunes of every sort as it lurches between rip-roaring car chases, colorful pre-caper banter, and a twee young-love subplot — to the extent that the movie will resonate most with audiences that skew young, hip, and, like its helmer and its hero (the latter played by baby-faced “The Fault in Our Stars” star Ansel Elgort), more than a little obsessive.
In real life, obsession can be an unflattering trait. On movie characters, however, it’s golden, resulting in single-minded protagonists who are crystal clear about what they want, leaving little room for conflict or contradiction to distract from their goals. Baby’s a lot like rabid B-movie connoisseur Clarence Worley in the Quentin Tarantino-scripted “True Romance,” or fellow Elvis devotee Sailor Ripley in David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart”: Such obsessive characters prove intensely passionate, slightly crazy, and as committed to their women as they are to the quirks that preoccupy them the rest of the time.
For Baby, that would be music and cars — though it’s anyone’s guess how he came to be such an expert on either. Wright introduces Baby behind the wheel of a souped-up red Subaru. Boosting an idea from his own 2003 music video for Mint Royale’s “Blue Song,” during the first bank hit, Wright remains parked outside with the kid, listening to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms” while the rest of the team (Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, and Eiza González) rob the joint. When the gang come running back to the car, Baby cranks up the volume and peels off for one of the most satisfying chase sequences in recent memory.
Like a slightly mellower version of Ryan Gosling’s stoic “Drive” driver, Elgort proves adorably awkward around women, especially Lily James’ character, Debora (ladies just love a damaged-goods guy like Baby, with his childhood trauma, mommy issues, and bad-boy streak). Prone to singing Carla Thomas’…