Baby Driver (2017) + Edgar Wright Q&A

Thanks to Sony Screenings for allowing me to see Baby Driver before its release and to Edgar Wright for a great Q&A session afterwards!

Movie poster for Baby Driver starring Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Eiza Gonzalez Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx

A few weeks ago, I was able to attend a really special advanced screening for Edgar Wright‘s latest film, Baby Driver, made special because the director himself was available afterward to answer questions! I’ll go into more detail about the Q&A after I talk about the movie itself (spoiler alert: Jake Tapper moderated!) so let’s get right into it!

Honestly, the reason this movie was on my radar was because I follow Ansel Elgort on Instagram and he promoted the movie. When Ben and I first saw the trailer, I was like “???” and Ben was very interested until the title appeared on the screen, at which point he went, “Aw, what, the title is Baby Driver are you serious I wanted to watch this movie, too…”

Baby Driver is about a getaway driver named… Baby, and he’s played by Ansel Elgort, whose incredible charm I had somehow underestimated despite following him on social media. (The boy has a great smile.) He listens to music on a variety of iPods virtually constantly because the car accident that killed his parents also left him with debilitating tinnitus – the permanent ringing in the ears that, in some people, can drive folks mad. He helps Kevin Spacey‘s Doc drive in his various heists because he owes Doc money from stealing from him in the past. The other members of the heist crews always change, leading Baby to meet characters like Bats (Jamie Foxx), the batsh*t crazy one eager for a fight, Buddy (Jon Hamm), the cool and easy-going one who is in love with Darling (Eiza González), the beautiful and troublemaking member of the lovebird duo.

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I’ll just say outright that the story and its progression are just okay, but it is very easy to forgive because this movie is not a movie.
It is an incredibly fun, nearly 2-hour-long, beautifully-styled music video.

Baby getting ready to drive in Baby Driver

The movie does not exist without the soundtrack. We listen to whatever Baby is listening to and that frames our experience of the film, just as it frames Baby’s experience. There’s a great one-take long-shot of Baby walking down the street to get coffee while listening to music, but of course, and the sounds in the background begin to sync up with the instrumentals and beat of Bob & Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle”. During the Q&A, I actually learned that this scene is a bit of a lyric video, where the lyrics of the song playing can be seen in the background! I hadn’t noticed at all, but there is graffiti that shows the lyrics, and when Baby walks back over, the graffiti has already changed to reflect the new lyrics.

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That’s the way the entire movie feels. It is how the movie was written in fact: Edgar Wright listened to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms” and imagined a car chase scene every time he listened to it, praying for years and years that it wouldn’t be used in a car chase scene by another director before he could use it as the soundtrack for the opening heist scene.

Awesome car chase scene

The moments of the movie hit the beats of the songs. High-action moments come with high-action beats, and slower, more intimate moments are accompanied by slower jams.

So don’t get caught up in the dialogue. Don’t get caught up in “why would they do that”? Don’t get caught up in the things that usually break a movie.

This isn’t just a movie. It’s a highly-stylized, super fun series of music videos that tell a large story. And it was so much fun. And it was so well-done.

Baby and Debora tapping their feet listening to a song
You’re free to attempt to not do this while watching, but it’s much more enjoyable if you let yourself have fun.

Baby Driver is in theaters June 28. I’ll talk about the great Q&A session with Edgar Wright and Jake Tapper after the trailer.

The lights came up and, I don’t know if it was announced beforehand but, CNN’s Jake Tapper walks out to moderate. I was nearly more excited about Tapper than I was to see Edgar Wright, to be honest!

And I’ll be really frank with you guys here: I have not seen a lot of Edgar Wright’s work. I haven’t seen Scott Pilgrim vs. The World yet (I know, I know), and I haven’t seen most of the Cornetto trilogy.  (I have seen The End of the World.) However, after watching this Evan Puschak video (better known as NerdWriter), I was a fan of Wright and his attention to certain details and stylizations in film:

Edgar Wright was in town for AwesomeCon (recap coming very soon!) so it was so nice to have him in to speak about the movie. Here are some insights I learned from our time with Edgar Wright:

  • When casting Joe, Baby’s deaf adoptive father, Wright auditioned several actors before seeing CJ Jones, a deaf actor. After seeing a deaf actor and comparing his performance to hearing actors pretend to be deaf, the decision was very easy. It felt much more important to bring the authenticity of the hearing-impaired experience than to hire a more recognizable face for the role.
  • The soundtrack features many songs by many artists, and the reason they weren’t able to obtain the rights to use some of the songs was because those artists actually had not yet cleared the rights to sample older songs used. So what Wright and his team did was just get for the rights for the original songs!
  • Watch for fun Easter eggs that the director included. Here’s one for you to keep an eye out for: at the end of the movie, Baby is wearing the number 1978, which is the year that Walter Hill’s The Driver was released.

Also, did you know that Jake Tapper did not know who Lily James or Ansel Elgort were!

Debora and Baby

He was asking Edgar Wright about how there are Oscar and Emmy winners in the supporting cast (Foxx, Spacey, Hamm) but that the protagonist and his love interest were, essentially, unknown? Maybe he just didn’t watch whatever TV show they were on? This was surprising to me because he has children and… did they miss… Cinderella?? Edgar Wright, being very gracious, explained that British people like definitely know Lily James from Downtown Abbey and that Ansel Elgort was previously very well-known for more “YA films”. (E.g. the Divergent movies and The Fault in Our Stars).

This was a really fun Q&A because Edgar Wright was super casual but very attentive and thoughtful with his answers. In fact, he even answered one of my questions! (My friends threw my hand in the air, making me look so eager that Jake Tapper felt very obligated to choose me.)

Funny story from the start of the Q&A: Jake Tapper randomly decided he would go girl-boy-girl-boy as the order for audience questions and then he pointed at someone and said “We’ll start here, girl.”
“Actually, I’m a man.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry, I don’t have my glasses on.”
“It’s all right, it comes with the long hair.”

(The man had quite luxurious long locks.)

Let me know if you see Baby Driver soon and if you like it! I think that if this movie was ANY weaker on style and fun, I would have been frustrated with certain points as far as the storytelling and even the acting. But it wasn’t and I don’t have anything bad to say about it.

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