“People of color are picked off easily, like a retro horror film where the black guy gets killed first.”
Title: Baby Driver (2017)
Director: Edgar Wright 👨🏼🇬🇧
Writer: Edgar Wright 👨🏼🇬🇧
Reviewed by Li 👩🏻🇺🇸
Disjointed and overly stylized with no substance to back it up. As my viewing partner put it, Baby Driver feels like a three part movie: the first is a quirky musical in the vein of La La Land, the second is a familiar action heist film, while the third evokes gory British humor reminiscent of Wright’s 2004 Shaun of the Dead.
When a film doesn’t know what it wants to be—and doesn’t have the chops to blend genres—it falls flat. Baby Driver is utterly soulless beneath its in-your-face soundtrack and preciously-timed action sequences, yet lacks the easy, low-hanging entertainment of, say, John Wick or Fast and the Furious franchises which dutifully dole out action with none of the pretension.
I would score this film a 2 for quality, but critics on Rotten Tomatoes average a 4/5, so we’ll compromise at 3.
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? NO
There are only two women in Baby Driver with named roles: Darling (Eiza González) is the sexy-sultry “ghetto” girlfriend of Buddy (Jon Hamm), complete with fur coats and long acrylic nails. Debora (Lily James) is the sexy-sultry "nice girl" girlfriend of Baby (Ansel Elgort) who dons a 1950s diner waitress outfit and hourglass dresses in her free time. Darling and Debora never speak to each other. One of them dies halfway through the movie.
Women in minor roles are used as screaming props for background noise. I can picture the script now: Woman shrieks, clutching her face. Woman screams, police rush in.
People of color are picked off easily, like a retro horror film where the black guy gets killed first. Baby Driver plays to stereotypes almost entirely, except for JD (Lanny Joon) who is Asian and tatted up and has no trace of an accent.
Though welcome, it hardly matters since JD is the first of the ensemble to die. And then the stereotypically dumb and "thuggish" black guy dies. And then the stereotypically spicy Latina dies. And then her non-stereotyped white boyfriend dies. And then the white boss guy dies. The last two remaining survivors: the borderline-genius, young white protégé and his pretty but clueless white girlfriend. *end scene*
The film does include a black senior, Joseph (CJ Jones), who is in the care of main character Baby. His role is positive if flat. Unfortunately, he is also used solely as a device for Baby’s character development, leaving no humanization or complexity for Joseph himself.
Bonus for Disability: +0.50
Props for including a deaf character, Joseph. Baby and Joseph communicate primarily through signing. Deafness does not play a large role in the film, but it is present and a much-needed balm in the otherwise rampantly discriminatory cast.
Mediaversity Grade: D 2.00/5
Actively offensive on gender and race, Baby Driver barely saves itself from an F grade by choosing to include a deaf character while the rest of its score is carried by strong reviews from critics who are judging on quality alone.
If you’re in the mood for something painfully stylized—think Guy Ritchie but with multiple personality disorder—then Baby Driver could be your evening rental. Just brace yourself for extreme tone deafness when it comes to female or non-white representation.