Drive Baby Drive!
Last week on Real Time with Bill Maher, Maher comedically ranted about how drastically summer has changed for the worse in his famous closing segment “New Rules.” He entitled the monologue Endless Dumber and proceeded to compare and contrast what summertime meant in the good ole days to what it is now.
“New Rule: Someone has to tell me how summer, the time of year when we traditionally give our brains a rest, can retain its specialness if stupid season now runs all year round? How can you feel good about earning a vacation for your mind if we’ve retired from the job of thinking all together? …We have now ruined summer because America insist on being peak stupid at all times…and the situation with movies is even worse, you know, we used to keep the sequels and the super hero bullshit confined to the summer. That was the deal. Then when September came, the serious movies came out—films, and we accepted that. We’d had our fun with robots and car crashes, and then in the fall, we knew it was time to go see the one where Meryl Streep teaches gay holocaust survivors how to box. But now, all year long it’s robots and talking raccoons.”
Though Baby Driver skips the robots but keeps the car crashes, it’s anything but a brainless summer flick. Sure, the story is pretty straight forward and although you’ve probably seen and heard it before, I’d venture to say, you’ve never seen and heard it quite like this. With the charm and whimsy of a Quentin Tarantino film like Pulp Fiction, Baby Driver strikes a thoroughly entertaining balance between violence, action and light-hearted romance. Earning a 98% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I think for the majority of us that have seen it, we’d agree that writer/director Edgar Wright has put an utterly original spin on a heist comedy!
Like I said, it’s a classic story: an unassuming boy who’s truly good at heart gets into trouble, gets mixed up with the wrong crowd and inevitably finds himself on the wrong side of the law. Having to overcome a traumatic event from his past that continues to haunt him, one day he meets the girl that changes everything for him. With the stakes higher than ever and so much to loose, the young man summons all the strength, courage and integrity he has inside of him to “face the music” and fight for his freedom.
The film reminds us that sometimes bad things happen to good people and out of perceived necessity, those same good people are lead to do bad things themselves. Caught between a rock and a hard place, the decision to refuse becomes life and death for them and those they love. There are no short cuts to righteousness, and no mercy in an unforgiving, one-strike-and-you’re-out kind of world, but eventually we all pay for our sins one way or another.
Across the board the performances are stellar particularly in the case of Ansel Elgort who plays the main character. Lily James is enchanting while Jamie Foxx and John Hamm give their roles as villains a humorous edge. Bravo to the editing duo Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss. Not since the movie Drive starring Ryan Gosling have I seen such sophisticated shots of gear shifting, donuts, and nail-bitting car-chases in one seamless montage after the other.
The music itself should have received a cast member credit. Music often goes hand and hand with film, but Baby Driver connects music to the core of the story’s evolution—redefining the role of the soundtrack. It becomes the main character’s internal monologue, building at times to a feverish pitch of motivating adrenaline and anxiety the audience can both see and feel. There are large stretches of time where none of the characters on screen have any dialogue and all the emotion behind the action taking place is communicated through the songs of legends like, The Beach Boys, Carla Thomas, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, T.Rex, Simon & Garfunkel, The Commodores, Button Down Brass and Queen—and that’s just naming a few. This musical force intensifies each scene—imbuing it with meaning and subtextual depth, while also managing to be lively and fun. I left the theater thinking to myself, what a fantastic and diverse soundtrack. It covered so many genres. I’ve got to have it. I won’t spoil it for you, but the film was a great reminder of how healing music can be and how sometimes a song expresses so much more than words alone.
Though I tend to agree with Maher’s tongue and cheek assessment of the entertainment industry as of late, it was refreshing to walk out of a summer flick centered around car crashesand feel inspired. Go see it!