You’ve probably heard a lot of buzz around the new Edgar Wright film, Baby Driver. The action flick follows Baby (Ansel Elgort), a talented young getaway driver who gets sucked into a life of crime working for a kingpin (Kevin Spacey) after being in a car accident as a child, which killed his parents and left him with a constant ringing in his ears that he blocks out by listening to music through his headphones. The film is getting fantastic reviews and even has a 95 percent critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but unfortunately I’m here to tell you it just doesn’t live up to the hype.
Don’t get me wrong — Baby Driver has a lot of redeeming qualities. It has an awesome cast, including not only Elgort and Spacey, but also Jon Hamm, Lily James, Eiza González, and Jamie Foxx. It has a killer soundtrack that includes songs from Barry White, Queen, and even the Beach Boys. Visually, it looks stunning and has been praised for its cinematography. Baby is sweet and endearing and could turn anyone into an Elgort fan. So, why did I come out of the theater thinking, “meh”?
For the most part, it boils down to one character: Deborah, the female lead played by Lily James. I might have been able to relate to her had the character been given some of the complexities that her male counterparts have. Deborah is a perfectly nice and compassionate waitress, as well as Baby’s love interest, but we’re given very little backstory about her. She’s a waitress . . . who works in the diner Baby goes to . . . sometimes she does her laundry . . . she likes music . . . ? That’s all we find out about Deborah during her time on screen, save for a brief scene when she explains how she used to take care of her mother before she died, and now she doesn’t have much keeping her in town. This one sentence, combined with what seems to be a mere handful of times meeting Baby, is enough for her character to agree to run away with him.
Actually, scratch that — I guess we also know that Deborah is spontaneous. Like, really spontaneous.
Whether Deborah has any friends, other people who love her, or even a past outside of the brief revelation about her mother doesn’t get addressed in Baby Driver. Her only dream seems to be to “head west on 20 in a car I can’t afford, with a plan I don’t have, just me, my, music and the road.” She’s very easily convinced to do so with a guy she barely knows, who is very clearly a criminal, something she conveniently chooses to ignore. In fact, with no sort of explanation, she just kind of joins in on the violent fighting in the end. This all further highlights how extremely one-dimensional her character is, serving only as the movie’s pretty face, there to make Baby look cool and feel good.
For me, if there isn’t a female character in the movie who is developed and well thought-out and there for a reason that’s more than “I’m with him,” I get bored. Granted, not every movie is going to cater to my particular interests; I can’t say I’m into driving fast or know anything about Baby’s rough upbringing.
Still, I don’t think it’s asking too much for a movie to feature a substantial female role, even if it’s small. What are Deborah’s motivations? Why is she so eager to run off with this random dude? Maybe I could’ve been sold on the runaway romance angle if Deborah really seemed to have a deep connection with Baby, or we saw that she really had a hard life, but the film doesn’t even attempt to offer up an explanation. Instead, Deborah’s character can be summed up as, “I met this guy in a diner and I guess I have nothing else to do.”