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The ‘Baby Driver’ Exit Survey

Is Ansel Elgort a star? Is this the movie that saves us from a desert of summer blockbusters? The Ringer staff answers all the pressing questions about Edgar Wright’s latest flick.

(TriStar Pictures/Ringer illustration)
(TriStar Pictures/Ringer illustration)

In a summer movie season that’s been defined by franchise flops and news about studio meddling, the bright and shiny Baby Driver — from the singular vision of Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) — feels like an oasis. But was it everything that the rave reviews from SXSW, the hip retro posters, and perfectly curated trailers made it out to be? The Ringer staff got together after seeing the movie to discuss that and more. (And by more, we mostly mean Ansel Elgort.)

1. What is your tweet-length review of ‘Baby Driver’?

Charlotte Goddu: I enjoyed this long, avant-garde music video.

Ben Lindbergh: A better heist movie than Ant-Man, a better chase movie than The Fate of the Furious, and proof that Wright can make a memorable mash-up sans satire or parody.

Juliet Litman: It reminded me of a movie based on a video game, but without the video game source material.

Sean Yoo: Baby Driver is a perfectly executed heist film that’s backboned by a ridiculously entertaining soundtrack.

Chris Ryan: A whippet of a movie: It gets you high and leaves you a little empty. Also, nobody puts Spacey in a corner.

Micah Peters: [Brian May’s three-minute guitar solo on "Brighton Rock"]

Andrew Gruttadaro: I’m worried that "OK" movies feel "amazing" right now because this summer’s slate has been so miserable.

Lindsay Zoladz: A sleek cinematic confectionary about a boy’s quest to win the love of a girl who reminds him of his mom.

Donnie Kwak: I didn’t fall asleep in this movie, which means it’s great.

2. What was your favorite moment in the film?

Ryan: When Baby hit pause and rewind on the Damned’s "Neat Neat Neat" to correspond to the timing of the armored truck heist, and the car chase that followed.

Peters: "I’ve got a mint with your name on it!" "… You have a mint … that says ‘Sam’ on it?"

Zoladz: When Kevin Spacey says "Bananas." Also, the opening chase scene was dazzling, particularly that beautiful overhead shot of the three candy-apple-red cars.

Yoo: In the third act, Baby makes a decision that ignites an insane action sequence. That decision was to drive straight into a truck, killing Jamie Foxx’s character with a pole sticking out of the pickup truck’s bed. The pure sense of shock had me hysterically laughing, even though it was a pretty gruesome death.

Gruttadaro: When Baby is forced to play one of the bad, weirdo recordings he makes out of taped conversations for the rest of the group. That high-level embarrassment of showing the world something that was meant to be deeply private is so real — and seeing Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Doc (Kevin Spacey) successfully contort their faces to express "WTF" was hilarious.

Kwak: Too much entertaining banter for me to pick one exchange, but every scene in Spacey’s makeshift HQ was enjoyable. The laughter of my theater audience drowned out some of the punch lines. Also, I liked the love story — cute, but not in an ingratiating way.

Goddu: For me, nothing topped the opening bank robbery, when Baby’s sitting in the car, lip-syncing to "Bellbottoms" with all his heart, turning the windshield wipers on and off to the beat of the song. He’s like a kid waiting in the car for his parents, and it’s completely fun and endearing.

Lindbergh: Baby’s endless supply of sunglasses in Elgort’s one-on-one with Jon Bernthal.

Sean Fennessey: The foot chase after the botched robbery set to Focus’ "Hocus Pocus" is the kind of physical, highly choreographed, throat-clutching sequence most films don’t even try anymore. Wright’s a practical effects man, and Elgort’s a ballet dancer — together, they make a movie that glides.

3. What was the worst part of the movie?

Ryan: Watching both Ansel Elgort and Lily James true romancing each other, both sounding like a version of Badlands Sissy Spacek if she had worked in a record store.

The rest of the movie has rat-a-tat dialogue that moves as fast as the cars and as gracefully as Elgort’s Gene Kelly–parkour dancing, but the second-act romance, which seems to revolve around how to spell Debora, really slowed things down.

Gruttadaro: So Jon Hamm’s character was a former Wall Street guy? I wasn’t really following all of that.

Kwak: How damn long it took Hamm to expire, like a movie zombie. Could’ve shaved off a good 15 minutes from the last sequence.

Yoo: Jon Hamm’s character’s ability to survive multiple near-death experiences.

Goddu: When Lily James and Ansel Elgort kept getting confused about whether or not they had Southern accents.

Zoladz: When Jon Hamm shot the iPod! But also the entire ending. The final action sequence went on interminably, Jon Hamm kept popping back up from the dead, and we really did not need the court montage to remind us what a nice boy Baby was. "He even threw the old lady her purse!" Cool, he’s still going to prison.

The movie seemed skittish in its final moments about the fact that it had made us sympathize with criminals for the past hour and 50 minutes; the ending felt like a flimsy bit of backpedaling. One of the many reasons it’s no Bonnie and Clyde.

Lindbergh: That someone who listens to music as much as Baby would still be using stock Apple earbuds, even for sentimental reasons.

4. Grade Ansel Elgort’s performance as Baby, and explain.

Kwak: I had never seen him act before this film but now I’m buying up all of the Gort stock. He has flown past Shia LaBeouf and Miles Teller for the top spot on my list of Inscrutably Talented Actors with Highly Punchable Faces and Swag-less Swag.

Ryan: B+. He was perfect for the movie that Edgar Wright wanted to make, which was one equally influenced by Singin’ in the Rain and Drive.

Zoladz: I have been pro–Ansel Elgort since I waited in a never-ending line outside the ladies’ room after a screening of The Fault in Our Stars, where the entire audience was reapplying its eye makeup. I liked him here, too. He was the perfect avatar for this fun, fleet-footed, and occasionally corny film.

Yoo: I want to start by saying I am NOT a fan of Ansel Elgort. But for some strange reason, his over-the-top-corny-cheeseball portrayal of Baby worked for me. I give the performance a B+ and I give myself a C- for falling into this Elgort trap.

Gruttadaro: He says "fucking" in a tense scene in a way that’s supposed to be tough, and it does not work.

Litman: B. Elgort is undeniable; there’s no sense in trying. His charms work best when he gets to talk a lot, so a taciturn role is not my ideal part for him.

Lindbergh: As someone whose appetite for recent YA adaptations ended with The Hunger Games, I’d never had extended exposure to Ansel before Baby Driver. I was impressed. Granted, he didn’t have to speak much or in more than a monotone, but I bought the driving, the dancing, and the romancing, as well as the way he wore his Han Solo vest.

Fennessey: Elgort’s divisiveness is uncommon — he has a formlessness in his acting style and in his face that makes him seem disengaged, as if someone forgot to turn on his operating system. That said, Baby needed to be someone who could dance as well as he glares over a steering wheel. My question: If not Ansel, then who?

5. Where will Ansel Elgort be in five years?

Kwak: Thriving, maybe dating Rihanna.

Zoladz: Are there any superheroes left for this guy? Nah? OK, in that case he’ll be starring in Baby Driver Reloaded: The Terrible Twos.

Gruttadaro: He’s not going away — he’s too big on the internet, there aren’t a lot of established young movie stars, and he plays annoying white people very well. Do we need a new early period John Cusack?

Lindbergh: Only an awful JFK impression could derail his Gosling-like rise to the top.

Ryan: That’s what I love about Elgort, man. I get older, he stays the same age. The Curious Case of Ansel Elgort is that he will never age. In five years, he will be exactly where we left him: sitting in a Subaru, listening to some Stax Spotify playlist, and trying on different pairs of sunglasses.

Fennessey: Assuming he’s not starring in Baby Driver 2: Baby’s All Growns Up, he’ll be dunking on Chris Ryan.

Yoo: I don’t know, probably headlining an EDM festival.

Litman: Starring in a romantic comedy for a streaming service.

6. Did you find director Edgar Wright’s flourishes charming or grating?

Fennessey: I bought it all, every time-sequenced second, even if I could never decipher how earnestly I should receive the fairy-tale aspect of the movie.

Yoo: I love Edgar Wright, so this is a biased answer, but I thought he did a marvelous job of adding his own personal flair to the crime/heist genre.

Kwak: Charming all the way. I appreciate effortful craftsmanship.

Zoladz: I found the flourishes here to be not grating, but a veneer that kept me from connecting emotionally with the movie. Everything felt so tightly choreographed, referential, and controlled that I admired the architecture of the thing more than I felt any emotions while watching it. It was an expertly engineered ride, but I’m not sure much stuck with me beyond the in-the-moment thrill of watching it.

Ryan: I enjoyed the behind-the-back camera moves, and thought the movie had great tension and release, but it looked like a Marvel movie, which is to say it looked like it was shot at the same industrial park where they made Captain America: Civil War. There was no mood, no subtext, and no tension that wasn’t provided by an iPod.

Lindbergh: Charming, and not only because every flourish reminded me of a much-loved moment from the Cornetto Trilogy, Scott Pilgrim, or Spaced. Baby Driver’s chase scenes are on another level than the forgettable one from Hot Fuzz, and while I love the geek acting icons Wright has worked with before, it’s exhilarating to see the same kinetic cuts framing legends like Spacey and Foxx.

Goddu: The most fun part of this movie was the music, and so I totally bought into the weird rhythmic synchronization of gestures/gunshots/movements to the soundtrack. Things that could’ve been gimmicky — like the fact that when Doc points, the elevator dings — came across as almost natural.

Peters: As a Scott Pilgrim evangelist I am extremely in favor of all whip pans, cheeky superimposed text, and automatic gunfire that keeps in time with "Hocus Pocus," thank you.

7. Jamie Foxx’s character tells a story about a friend who couldn’t function anytime "Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door" came on the radio. What is your "hex song?"

Zoladz:

Kwak: DJ Khaled’s voice.

Gruttadaro: I once got pulled over listening to "Everytime We Touch" by Cascada, so that.

Lindbergh: "Hex" by Neko Case.

Yoo: My "hex song" will always be "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan because it always brings up the emotions I feel while watching that sad ASPCA commercial.

Peters: Because I don’t trust anyone not to spam me with my hex song, I will say that "You Were Not There" by Post Animal is my getaway song.

Goddu: In keeping with songs that might portend death, my hex song is "If I Die Young," because it is both bad and morbid.

Fennessey:

Ryan: Well, now it’s "Tequila."

8. Of all the side characters — Hamm, Foxx, Flea, and so on — who was your favorite?

Gruttadaro: Hamm’s haircut was dope.

Ryan: Gotta go with Hamm, whose backstory, when tossed off by Foxx in the diner, amounts to: "What if Don Draper lived long enough to get into coke?"

Kwak: It’s gotta be Foxx, but shout-out to the Asian dude with the "HAT" tattoo on his neck.

Lindbergh: Foxx as Bats (a.k.a. Leon), who embodied the best blend of comedy and barely-controlled craziness. Foxx’s "You rob to support a drug habit, I do drugs to support a robbery habit" line got the biggest laugh in the screening I saw.

Fennessey: Foxx’s insidious Bats is the most effortlessly charismatic figure in the movie, though I got a little tingle from these two homage cameos Wright dropped in:

That’s Jon Spencer of the titular Blues Explosion, whose band kicks off the movie with "Bellbottoms." Hill is the legendary director behind 1978’s The Driver, a clear inspiration/guidepost for Wright’s movie.

Litman: There is never enough Jamie Foxx.

Goddu: Buddy and Darling (Eiza González) as a couple really did it for me. They’re the only people who could make matching "his" and "hers" neck tattoos cute and not gross, and Hamm’s abiding romanticism — even in the face of what should’ve been death many times over — was touching.

Zoladz: I really liked Jon Hamm in this movie, although I couldn’t genuinely fear him as a villain because I just kept picturing Don Draper crying about his childhood while trying to sell Hershey bars.

Peters: I really enjoyed Jamie Foxx’s turn as Jamie Foxx Who Robs Banks.

Yoo: As much as I enjoyed the performances of Hamm, Foxx, and even CJ Jones, the side character that stole the movie was Doc’s nephew. Even though he was in only one small scene, the young actor had me dying of laughter in what might’ve been the funniest scene of the movie.

9. Will there be a ‘Baby Driver’ sequel? Should there be?

Gruttadaro: "‘Baby Driver’ Races to $2.1 Million in Tuesday Night Previews" is a headline I read today, so yes. As for the second question: no.

Yoo: Yes, there will probably be a sequel due to the foreseeable success of the film. I personally don’t think it needs a sequel, but I also wouldn’t be opposed to watching one.

Goddu: There will be. I will watch it, but I will somewhat resent feeling compelled to do so.

Lindbergh: In a world where Daddy’s Home gets a sequel and Now You See Me gets two, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a Baby Driver sequel, especially since the early box-office returns suggest that the movie will make money. More Baby Driver wouldn’t be a bad thing (working title: … Baby One More Time), but I’d rather see Wright use its success as a stepping stone to something else with an even bigger budget, whether it’s an original idea or a new entry in an established series. If he sets his sights high, Wright could become the next director fired by Kathleen Kennedy.

Peters: NO. NOT EVEN IF THERE’S A FIRE.

Fennessey: No. And no. There is no expanded driver universe.

Ryan: No, but I would be more than fine with a Hamm–Eiza González origin story called Buddy Darlin’.

Kwak: I hesitate to say yes because the sequel won’t be better, but I’m fine with seeing the Gort reprise his Baby role. Maybe cast Shia (as Toddler, a dude with vision problems) and Miles Teller (as Preteen, a mute) so we can unite the Highly Punchable Faces in one film.

Zoladz: There should be a prequel about Jon Hamm’s life on Wall Street, except that it’s just called Mad Men.