Tuesday, June 27, 2017

BABY DRIVER: Take a Ride w/Edgar Wright's Rockin' Wheelman

Thanks to the Brattle Theatre and the Independent Film Festival of Boston, I got to watch BABY DRIVER at an advanced screening last week!

It is a gorgeous musical roller coaster ride of a film. Writer and director Edgar Wright supercharges another beloved cinematic icon-slash-genre—the Wheelman or Driver—with his remarkable style, vision, wit, and rhythm. While not *a* musical, per se, BABY DRIVER is very musical, delivering snappy dialogue, sharp looks, slick moves, death-defying driving, and brutal gunplay, all choreographed to a soundtrack beautifully interwoven with the film…

There's not a lot more to say, really, beyond additional superlatives upon superlatives, and I don't want to go into scenes or characters too deeply and give up any of the fun. I think I'll just let one of the trailers do the talking…

Bottom line—GO SEE THIS MOVIE! And see it IN THE THEATER!

And for Space Pope's sake, do NOT take your phone out for any reason while the movie is running. You just paid $10 to $20 for this amazing experience! We live in an age of wonder that allows you to ignore a movie for free at home. Save the spacebooking, twitting, and txting for later. Or if you're gonna do that, or even look at a message on your annoyingly-bright-in-a-darkened-theater phone, get out of your seat, walk to an exit, behind a barrier, or *maybe* the back wall, out of anyone's view, and then have a look, respond if you must, and get back to the show. If you're waiting on your wife to finish delivering, or the funeral parlor's supposed to call about Pop's arrangements, or you're expecting a call from the doctor with those test results—WTF are you doing at the movies? If your phone lights up and you can see it, believe me, everyone next to and behind you can see it. Keep it in your pocket. If you see someone next to or near you futzing w/a screen, do everyone a favor, be your own (and my) hero, and ask them to put it away or take it outside.

Beware, beyond this point, I'm gonna start lobbing spoilers into my rambling. So, exit pursued by a bear now if you haven't seen BABY DRIVER already!

CRITS (oh-so-minor, probably more like backhanded compliments).

I don't feel the heart in this that I do in the Cornetto films. Those films—SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, THE WORLD'S END—had relationships at their centers. But I have to say that my not feeling that with BABY DRIVER is very fair and true to the driver genre. You don't get the warm fuzzies thinking about BULLITT, THE BLUES BROTHERS, or THE FRENCH CONNECTION, right? Well, okay, maybe THE BLUES BROTHERS. =)

The characters tend to be flat and archetypal, taking a back seat *sorry-not-sorry* to the action and style. Wright does get me rooting for some of the baddies along the way, because of their professionalism, circumstance, charisma, and, well, moral relativism. And while they may be flat, they own their two dimensions and are memorable, essential, love- and hate-able in their own ways.

Of course, we know who we're rooting for—our Baby on board.

Maybe this isn't fair to BABY DRIVER, but I'd *just* seen Walter Hill's THE DRIVER, right before it, and was so frickin' impressed with its style and tension and story-slash-chase-telling cinematography. I found myself wanting more from the final car-v-car showdown in BABY. I feel like both Wright's BABY DRIVER and Refn's DRIVE put their tightest and tautest chase set piece at the start of their films. They are a-ma-zing intros to each film experience, but greedy me, I want even higher peaks in the middle and the end.

Oh, don't get me wrong—there ARE more peaks, gorgeously choreographed, executed, shot, and edited peaks, throughout. It's been a week now and I still feel my thoughts are vibrating from the experience.

I'm gonna see it again, so maybe I'll revisit this notion of the "starting with dessert" problem, if that's what it is. Maybe it was having THE DRIVER on my palate affecting my perspective…


I love the reason that Baby is always listening to his music. I don't know which movie or story first used music as a way to time and count off the steps to a heist—at the moment I can only think of HUDSON HAWK =) —but I was almost surprised that that seemed to be what was happening with Baby's character in the film's opening chase scene (w/Buddy, Darling, and Griff). It almost seemed too, well, easy…y'know, for Edgar Wright. But it *is* Edgar Wright, so we know he's gonna do something brilliant with it.

Yeah, I know. Sometimes I wish I could watch a movie with my 9-yo brain, and not think so much.
Then we see Baby on his apparently regular walk to Octane coffee, and in a beautiful "Harlem Shuffle" music video starring Baby against the graffiti of Atlanta streets, we learn that music permeates every moment of Baby's life. Man, when Debora walks by outside the shop in front of the rainbow heart—so simply perfect. =)

And I'm pretty sure that when he retraces his steps, "Shake Shake" has been added to a column or wall that had "Right" on the way in.

Later we learn that there's more method to Baby's madness for music. Doc explains that he suffers from tinnitus, and music helps keep the ringing in his ears at bay. Later still, we learn that he has a habit of recording much of what he hears, using the audio as samples in musical creations of his own. I really wish we'd been able to see him create some more of those, and/or hear more from his extensive library.


Some little bits of fun that I feel are somehow Wright-ian, whether intended by the director or not. =)

J.D., of Bats's crew, is given a simple assignment—pick up three HALLOWEEN Michael Myers masks for use in the robbery. What does he show up with? Three Mike Myers (as Austin Powers) Halloween masks. When questioned about his cluelessness, one of the gang tries to clarify—The Bad Guy from HALLOWEEN, the movie! To which he replies—Oh! You mean Jason! And hey—What's Buddy's real name? Jason! As in Jason from FRIDAY THE 13th? As in the guy who keeps getting killed by never dies?

And what's Baby's real name? M I L E S of course!

Hrm…Good thing Wright didn't make this movie on the continent somewhere or Canada. His name would've been Kilometers! *groan*

Bananas! Doc reveals that's the phone call confirmation code word he receives from his contacts after a successful interaction. Darling reacts to the playing of one of Baby's tapes—"Is he slow?"—with B-A-N-A-N-A-S. When the Butcher's Atlanta PD colleagues show up for revenge on Doc, they give him the code word—"Bananas!"—along with some hot lead.

The invisible camera returns! In WORLD'S END, Wright shoots a scene between Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike in the restroom of a pub with the camera pointed squarely at the mirror on the wall. Sure, it could be digital magic, but I can't help but wonder if Wright has pulled off some practical magic. Just the right lighting combined with a glass plate at the correct complementary angle or something? Well, whatever he did then, he does again in…I want to say at least two shots—maybe three, with reflections in a car exterior?—in BABY DRIVER. My lame brain is now only recalling one, tho, in a pan across the washing machines of a laundromat, a sweet bit of Courtship, American Style.

Yeah, probably some "simple" digital trickery…But maybe only for the last 10% that some Houdini-like stage magic couldn't quite cover? I want to know but don't want to. =)

And speaking of courtship—I kind of adore how Baby sharing his earbuds with Debora physically connects them while they're moving around the laundromat and talking. It turns their conversation into a sweet dance number. A bit of Wright magic.

Becky & Ella? In the elevator down to P1, P2, and P3 after the first job, Buddy promises to take Darling to Bacchanalia, for the best wining and dining around, or something to that effect. When Debora presses Baby for an idea on where they'll go out, he tells her what sounds like "Becky and Ella" for the best wining and dining around. NB: Found out Bacchanalia *is* an actual ATL restaurant, but I don't believe we ever see its name or signage on screen.


About the "Spirit of 85" or whatever it was called. Doc mentions it to help establish Baby's cred. Apparently Baby tied the Atlanta PD in knots on what sounded like a crazy prolonged chase involving a cloverleaf interchange of highways. I think the word "spaghetti" was used? No doubt native Atlantans will appreciate the description of the feat. Baby's Kessel Run? =)

Oh, man! Who is responsible for Baby's wardrobe? For half if not most of the film, he is strategically yet uncannily decked out in duds that scream "Han Solo" to me. I'm talking A NEW HOPE—black vest over white shirt with dark pants.

After the film, I was told that our Baby, Ansel Elgort, had been on the short list for the young Han Solo film. I honestly had no idea as I did and do my best to block that sort of "news" as much as possible when it comes to films I'm looking forward to.

When I heard about the LEGO MOVIE directors being dismissed from the project, I thought that maybe they'd seen BABY DRIVER and realized that Edgar Wright had already made the movie—what's the point now? =)

And in the Hollywood minute before Ron Howard was announced, I wondered if maybe BABY DRIVER might possibly be the perfect proof of capabilities for Wright as the new director. Alas—*sigh*—not to be.

I wonder just what the heck happened with Disney/Marvel/ANT-MAN and Wright.


I love it when my experience of films and shows connect in little unexpected ways…

Last week, I got to see Edgar Wright's amazing action jukebox, BABY DRIVER. The next night, I caught Kumail Nanjani and Emily Gordon's hilarious, heart-warming and -punching rom-coma-com, THE BIG SICK. And tonight, a week later, experienced Bong Joon Ho's OKJA on the big screen before it streams on Netflix.

Yeah, none of that connects on paper, but in my head it's a different story… =)

In THE BIG SICK, Kumail and Emily's non-dating dates reveal his obsession with cricket and appreciation of zombies, which of course would logically add up to a SHAUN OF THE DEAD poster on his bedroom wall. That's some solid math, and reminded me that I've followed some twitter exchanges between them about movies (about ROGUE ONE, Riz Ahmed, representation, and a buddy heist film).

The content of OKJA does not directly connect to anything Wrightian (as far as I could tell on a first viewing), but Bong Joon Ho's previous film, the must-see sci-fi fable SNOWPIERCER, features Jamie Bell as a character named Edgar, apparently named for Wright. That note, plus the fact that Edgar was best buddy of Chris Evans's Curtis, inspired a meta-mashup poster for SNOWPIERCER starring SCOTT PILGRIM's Lucas Lee.

Yeah, like I said…it's all in my head.

Why do I have a feeling like this will be read back to me in court at a later date?


Oh—how did I get to see all these films in the theater? And before their wide release dates? The Brattle Theatre and the Independent Film Festival of Boston are my enablers-slash-suppliers. If you're Boston-local and love moviegoing, I *highly* recommend you check their schedules and membership privileges, join/donate/support either or both, and see some amazing movies!

Allright, enough a-ramblin'. If you made it this far, I'm sorry and thanks much. Now, get thee to the theater and BABY DRIVER up!

Keep on keepin' on~

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