A valid R, mostly for language and one scene of gore that I can think of. We're not talking hard R here, but R none the less. I want to find another organic way of saying "R", but out of context feels like cheating.
DIRECTOR: Edgar Wright
This is the movie, guys. This is the one I was excited for this year. I was more excited for Baby Driver than I am for Spider-Man: Homecoming. I fanboy out over Edgar Wright real hard. My entire film class was me not shutting up over Baby Driver and it finally came. My moment of clarity: Baby Driver is an outstanding movie that could not possibly live up to the hype I gave it in my old mind grapes. I still loved it more than I've loved most movies, but it might be my least favorite Edgar Wright film. But who cares? Edgar Wright has yet to let me down and I will continue to hype myself up for his movies way too hard.
The worst thing I could have done was to read South by Southwest reviews. There was something out there along the lines that Baby Driver was a musical action movie romance story. Okay, yeah, kind of. When I saw that, the word "musical" stood out most in that grouping. The movie is not a musical. It has musical elements and a killer soundtrack that defines the movie beautifully. It didn't help that the opening credits totally were a musical sequence. And it was a cool musical sequence. It was a near perfect music video with a great narrative that got me in the mind of Baby and golly, could I gush on it enough. The opening credits were my favorite part of the movie. It's selfish of me,because I wanted the entire movie to be the opening credit sequence. I will be rewatching footage of just the opening again sometime because that sequence was gnarly as heck. The musical elements I'm talking about has to do with cool timing stuff. Other movies have tried to do it to this level, but I don't think many of those other movies have really achieved that level of timing. It all comes down to completely fluid editing on the part of Wright and editors Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss. I'm rarely an editing nerd. I'm actually part of the camp of editing should be part of the background with rare exceptions. This was one of those rare exceptions, and even then it strikes a very close balance. The movie plays extremely well without an awareness of the editing choices going on, but achieve new heights because the editing is so gosh darn playful. I was being annoying to my wife pointing out cool little music beats. Wright does the Mulholland Drive street lines scenes, but then there was a double beat. What does he do? Patch in the road. Shut. Up. That's beautiful. It's not a musical because the only real sequence that follows that kind of musical format is the opening credits. But Baby lives in the world of his music. His music affects his performance and he's obsessive about it. It is such a fun little quirk that it makes the movie what it is. It is a fun action car movie without it, but such a joyful movie considering the dark content otherwise.
The odd thing is that this is Edgar Wright's most straightforward, serious film and I still found myself laughing. There's very few actual jokes in this movie. (Okay, the Mike Myers thing in the trailer is a straight up bit and it is hilarious.) The movie finds its joy around the reactions of the movie and the way that the movie is cut together. Wright, like his usual style, uses the camera to tell more story than the narrative. He plays tricks with the camera. Baby is looking for a job? He walks in to apply and walks out to deliver a pizza. Lots of movies handle that moment in that way, but they use it as the exception to their straightforward film. Wright has this as simply a moment in the movie. It is no more or less playful than any other scene in the movie. Considering that this is a car movie, that gives a new playground for Wright. I know that he touched upon his love of Point Break quite loudly with Hot Fuzz, but Hot Fuzz was always more of a lampoon than it was an homage to this very specific genre. Wright is doing more of a love letter and trying to deliver an awesome car movie at the same. It has many of the same attitudes that Tarantino does towards his movies. Both directors love their respected genres and only wish to add to the pool with a movie worthy of their favorite films. That's exciting to watch as a fan. I always kind of get depressed knowing that directors have to do so many "for hire" projects to put bread on the table. Maybe it is a blessing in disguise that Wright never got to do Ant-Man because I think it would have broken him a little bit. Every single movie he has done so far has been completely his and his alone. I can see why a major studio like Marvel might drive him away because these movies are love letters, not jobs.
It is odd seeing such an American movie come out of Wright. I weirdly still think of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World as a Canadian film, but there is a different vibe to this one. Having the men of AMC fill in this movie is so cool. The names in this movie are huge. Kevin Spacey alone gives this film some star power, but the choices in the other big names is inspiring. Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx are huge names, but they also have the right degree of indie cred. Wright spends many of his first acts setting up for his third, and his use of Jon Hamm in the third act of this movie is inspiring. I keep dancing around ways to not spoil Hamm's involvement in the plot, but I'm not even going to tease. Hamm is great in this movie and his juxtaposition to Foxx's very bombastic character is super cool. These characters are larger than life, but they never fully embrace a campiness that could have ruined this movie. Instead, they are being large and in charge and allowing the tone of the film to justify choices that might not be in other, more grounded films of theirs. The odd thing, considering I recently watched the first two Fast and the Furious movies, they match the very obvious performances of those casts but it somehow works better here. Wright's world allows for Hamm, Bernthal, Foxx, Spacey, and Gonzalez just to go to town. But there is a hint of irony to their performances. There is never the full on wink to the camera, but there is an acknowledgement that Baby's world is not governed by our rules. The world has a sneeze of superhero action world and that's okay. These characters live inside this world fabulously and their performances match the world.
I didn't know Ansel Elgort before this movie, but golly, his casting is just perfect. He has this comic timing to him where he knows that you aren't supposed be laughing at him, but the world around him. He has this flat affect that just works for the movie. Considering that everyone in the film accuses him of having some kind of social disorder, it works for the character. But the character exudes mental break while being simply reined in. This makes his chemistry with Lily James all the more interesting. My wife thought she was the least interesting character in the movie, but she did like their relationship. Yeah, it's a bit weird that she falls so hard for Baby. Okay, I'll go as far as to say that it doesn't really make sense that she'd be willing to uproot her life so hard for a guy who requires so much work to get a certain sentence. But their introverted / extroverted attitudes make the relationship cute. I might be a sucker for that kind of stuff, so you'll need to forgive me if I'm way off the mark. I can see why my wife thought that her characterization was a little weak. I feel like I've seen that character in other things, which is kind of lame considering that this movie is super broey. (I'm trying to think if this movie passes the Bechdel test. The way I understand it is that there are two female leads who have a conversation not about their relationship to a male lead. I think that works, but that's only because one of them was a waitress that took the other's order.) But that relationship is great and I really rooted for it. Aw geez, I realized that her relationship is only in the movie to give him incentive to act outside of his character. LIGHT SPOILER: IN THE SENSE THAT I'M TELLING YOU WHO DOESN'T DIE IN THE MOVIE. If she had died, she would have been an example of fridging a character. Maybe I need to get off my woke butt and just enjoy the fact that I thought that they were cute together.
One of the criticisms I saw about this movie is that the action wasn't that great. Shut up. It totally is amazing. I haven't seen such cool action in a while and the Fast and Furious movies need to take a note of how to make amazing car chases. The action sequences outside the car are also awesome, so stop griping other reviews that are not this one. I'm really defensive.
I think the only thing that doesn't make this my favorite movie is that I prefer Edgar Wright, the comedy director. His comedy is just so on point that it is weird to see him take a movie without lampooning something else. Again, I can't stress that this movie is by no means a serious film, but it also isn't overtly a comedy either. Let's throw this one in dramedy. Okay, actionady, but that doesn't flow nearly as well as the portmanteau "dramedy." Nothing really drags in this movie and the movie is just a ton of fun. I can't wait for this to come to Blu-Ray because this is an absolutely fantastic garage film. Yeah, it could have been PG-13, but if Edgar Wright wants to drop F-Bombs, I'm going to let him. They're few and far between, so it's not like he's looking to offend. I think he just wants his movie to be his own and the studio can kind of kiss his rear end. I feel like he doesn't mind small turnouts to his movies because his films are always buried without a ton of press. No one knew what movie I was going to see when I said Baby Driver (gasp!), but I get the vibe that might be on Wright himself. Anyway, I wholeheartedly recommend this one, but also take the time to watch the rest of the Wright oeuvre.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.