It is OK to leave Baby Driver, the Edgar Wright film about an Atlanta-based crime ring and the iPod-loving getaway driver who works for them, feeling somewhat confused. The stunts are fairly logic-bending, it features ’50s-era fantasy sequences and a cameo from Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and that one character somehow just does not die. And then there is also the question of the movie’s lead actor, Ansel Elgort.
The questions abound: Who is this very large man-baby? How does someone that tall dance that well? Is he youthful shamelessness personified? Did you know it was possible to love someone’s face so much you wanted to slap it? And most importantly, is Ansel Elgort good? I can answer most of those questions (in order: He is Ansel Elgort, we’ve been over this; his mother is a famous dancer-choreographer, so the gift of graceful movement is in his blood; yes, he is; and no I did not, until I saw Baby Driver). But I’d like to dive deeper into that last one.
Since rising to fame in 2014 as the Pacers-jersey-wearing perfect boyfriend in the weepy teen romance flick The Fault in Our Stars, Elgort has been a confounding figure of multifaceted pursuits. Chasing a career in music as well as acting — and painting small stones sometimes, because why not — the 23-year-old has simultaneously become a teen idol and a thorn in the side of an older generation. His public persona can best be defined as holistically youthful; he is entirely unburdened by self-awareness, as demonstrated by the way he says and does stupid things, and then says and does stupider things when people call him out on those stupid things. Or the way he sheds actual tears because of a delicious peach:
How are we supposed to feel about all of this? Is Ansel Elgort good? Do the Germans have a word for this strange, conflicted feeling we’re all feeling? Look at how torn the Ringer staff is regarding the Gort:
In an era of manicured celebrity and controlled publicity, Ansel Elgort is an outlier, and so it’s difficult to pin down judgment on him — not just as an actor, but as the multihyphenate that he is. But that’s what we’re going to try to do. Hopefully, by analyzing the many fractions of Elgort, we can come to a conclusion on the star as a whole and officially answer the question of whether Ansel Elgort is good.
Ansel Elgort As an Actor
It’d be easy to dismiss Ansel’s acting pursuits because so far he’s mostly played twerpy, overconfident youths, like the one in The Fault in Our Stars who says annoying things like "I know that love is just a shout into the void," or the one in Baby Driver who dances to Bob & Earl’s "Harlem Shuffle" without a hint of irony. His range is yet to be tested.
But judging from that small, admittedly one-note sample, Ansel is pretty solid! He has an effortlessness and fearlessness as a performer, and a confidence in himself that is maddeningly endearing. In movies like The Fault in Our Stars and Baby Driver, he doesn’t necessarily blow you away with raw emotion or lose himself in character, but he wins you over nonetheless. Against your better judgment, he makes you get behind his characters, a skill only a handful of actors have.
Verdict: It’s an incomplete picture — higher-profile, more varied roles will probably come following the critical success of Baby Driver — but for now, we have to say that Ansel is a Good actor. For more on this, let’s break down his performance as a Baby Driver in Baby Driver.
Ansel Elgort As a Baby
Verdict: Ansel is, by definition, a Bad baby.
Ansel Elgort As a Driver
The trailer for Baby Driver features an incredible driving stunt in which a Subaru WRX does a 360 while in forward motion in order to avoid multiple unfortunately situated trucks:
Here’s the wild thing: That stunt occurs about two minutes into the movie. Baby Driver has so many important (and impressive) driving sequences that it can afford to spend this one in the first scene! That proves only that the movie’s protagonist, Baby, is good at driving, and we’re here to determine whether Ansel Elgort is good at driving. How much of the driving did Ansel actually do? "I did as much as I could and as much as they would let me do," Ansel told Variety. "I did a lot of stunt training. We did about 10 sessions with a stunt team from the movie, who were really great. In theory, I can do all the stunts from the movie."
To parse this out: Ansel did receive training to be a good driver, but wasn’t allowed to attempt any of the more difficult, more dangerous driving stunts. So technically, you could say Ansel did not prove he is a good driver. Seen another way, though, Ansel really is as good a driver as his character in the movie is, and no one can say otherwise because the theory was neither confirmed nor debunked. Ansel Elgort’s driving skills are basically Schrödinger’s cat.
Verdict: Ansel is a Good driver, because theoretics.
Ansel Elgort As a Musician
Though he’s just 23 years old, Ansel Elgort has already invented and then reinvented himself as a musician. His first music project was as an EDM DJ who went by the name of Ansølo (oh no). Ansølo was initially interested in EDM music because "it felt like youth to me," he told Billboard. Elgort’s most listened-to song on Spotify as Ansølo is "To Life (Radio Edit)," a track featuring Too Many Zooz that sounds like Avicii, the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, and the oboe from Peter and the Wolf having a threesome. Before he was discontinued, Ansølo played the main stage at Electric Zoo in 2014, opened for Martin Garrix and the Chainsmokers (who "were never trying to fool anyone into thinking they weren’t bro-y," according to Elgort), and allegedly made Afrojack "freak out." Asked in 2016 why he chose to drop sick beats under a pseudonym, Elgort explained, "I really respect the dance music industry."
Apparently the same does not go for the pop music industry, because that same year Ansel Elgort completely rebranded himself as a musician, using his birth name to release a string of crossover tracks. How Ansel Elgort was born from Ansølo is an interesting story, which he tells better than I ever could: "I went in to play [Island Records] some new records, and because they signed me as ‘Ansølo,’ they were expecting club music. I played them a few demos of me singing, and they were like, ‘Wow, the voice is really cool. Who is it?’ I was like, ‘It’s me!’" Wow, can you believe that? Life is swell!
As Ansel Elgort, Ansel Elgort and his "really cool" voice have fully transitioned to Nick Jonas–y pop, and in no time he’s eclipsed Ansølo — his first single, "Home Alone," has way more plays on SoundCloud than any Ansølo track, and 2017’s "Thief" has racked up more than 7.7 million views on YouTube and landed Elgort on Billboard’s Twitter Top Tracks chart for the first time. Plus, Ansølo never had cover art as good as this:
Or an entire video as good as this:
Here is a quick list of my favorite things from this video:
3. When he stands over his IRL girlfriend on a bed:
Who does that?! That’s not a thing!
2. When he boxes in front of a mirror:
1. When he explained the meaning behind this video to Teen Vogue:
How’s the music, though? Hmm, how can I put this in the nicest way possible? Umm … it’s like if Josh Groban and DJ Snake made an album together.
Verdict: Ansel is a Bad, but relatively successful and entrepreneurial, musician.
Ansel Elgort As a Clothes-Wearer
It is extremely difficult to explain Ansel Elgort’s aesthetic. One day, he’s looking like how the Weeknd must feel, gesturing into the void while wearing a leather jacket with weirdly long tassels:
And the next he’s dressed in an outfit from the John Elliott for the U.S. Army catalog:
The day after that he’s on a red carpet looking like a real spiffy lad, wearing the tightest turtleneck that has ever turtlenecked:
That’s the look of a man who feels really good when his neck is concealed.
Anyway, the point is that Ansel has an odd hybrid style: a dab of Chance the Rapper’s modern sock-hop, a pinch of Hollywood in the ’60s, a dash of hypebeast, and a full scoop of Topman. But I gotta say, as goofy as that all sounds, I’m not really mad at Ansel.
Sure, man, get after it.
GQ.com also once said that it "appreciate[s Ansel’s] enthusiasm," so to me there’s no other conclusion: Ansel is a Good clothes-wearer.
Ansel Elgort As a Basketball Player
Ansel Elgort really likes basketball. One time, he asked the entire city of Atlanta if they wanted to play with him. Another time, he repeatedly yelled, "BALL IS LIFE," in the middle of a rainstorm:
I’m also convinced that the only reason he agreed to do a photo shoot with DuJour magazine was because it agreed to let him block this poor lady:
Maybe the most important thing that Ansel Elgort wants you to know about himself is that he can dunk. "I want to dunk in [the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game]. I want people to know I can do it," he told Details magazine in 2015. To be sure everyone knows he can dunk, Ansel periodically uploads video and photographic evidence:
If you see this man in jeans and no shirt, get out of the way, because he’s about to throw down.
But being able to dunk does not a good basketball player make, so let’s go deeper. First of all, even Ansel will admit that he wasn’t the star baller at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art: "The best kid on the team was the trombone player," he told Details. Furthermore, his teams have won both times he’s played in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game (2015 and 2017), but not really because of him. In fact, in 2015 he missed a layup, which made him feel "really stupid," he told GQ. On the other hand, there is this video of Ansel Elgort making a good pass during a pickup game:
Whoever filmed this was JUICED about that assist.
Verdict: With the evidence available to me, I have to conclude that Ansel Elgort can dunk, but is possibly a Bad basketball player.
Ansel Elgort As a Foodie
Exhibit A (via BuzzFeed):
Exhibit B (via Billboard):
"[Le Pain Quotidien] is extremely solid. Some people are like, ‘You’re from New York, have you been to, like, insert-five-really-douchey-places?’ I haven’t been to any of those places. I like my solid places."
Ansel Elgort is a Bad foodie.
Ansel Elgort As a Social Media User
As a youth, Ansel is extremely adept on all social media, with 3.14 million followers on Twitter and 7.9 million on Instagram. He seems to understand what fans want from the celebrities they follow online: a mix of interaction and intimacy. He’s constantly retweeting and communicating with his horde of followers, speaking to them in ways that feel pointed and personal — even if what he’s really saying is: "Go buy my shit."
Ansel probably gets away with all of the self-promotion due to the other stuff he posts — videos of himself doing covers of "Passionfruit" and "City of Stars" and dancing like Michael Jackson in the middle of a Brooklyn street — that make him seem less like a movie star and more like that dorky friend you have who can’t stop oversharing on Facebook. He’s cringeworthy, but it’s not hard to see why people find him undeniably adorable. Need I remind you of the peach episode?
No four photos will ever more clearly summarize the Ansel Elgort experience of hating something so much until you actually love it.
Verdict: Ansel Elgort is a Good social media user.
Everyone here can count, I assume; there is more Good in this article than Bad. After weighing all the parts that make up Ansel Elgort, we can officially state that Ansel Elgort as a whole is Good. Go buy yourself a new turtleneck, Ansel. You’ve earned it.