The Film Debate: Baby Driver (2)

Image credit: Movieclips Trailers via YouTube

Everyone seems to have loved this film. The critics, all of my friends who’ve seen it, the companion I went to see it with. And yet here I am, ultimately disappointed in what I saw. Initially I couldn't quite put it all into words, but in the end I think my disappointment boils down to the film’s tonal inconsistencies and its treatment of women. 

I was very excited about this movie - the trailer promised an energetic, kickass movie, a lovechild of Scott Pilgrim and Kingsman Secret Service, (both of which are very dear to my heart). I was taken aback by the unexpectedly dark tone of the movie, which is coupled with a shiny, hip way of presenting it. It was definitely experimental - its pitch-perfect soundtrack and general focus on music provides an odd combination with the dead seriousness of the plot and characters, especially the story of Baby himself. I wasn’t sure how to take it, and the most obvious way to do so seems to see it as a serious heist action movie seen and heard through music. And if that is the case, if we are to take the characters and the plot seriously, it’s logical inconsistencies greatly reduce the enjoyment of the film. For example, at the very end the supposedly ruthless crime boss, who had previously threatened to kill everyone Baby loves, is treated as some sort of Deus Ex Machina, approached by the heroes to save the day and help them to escape the mess created by them. 

My bigger problem with the movie is its treatment of women. There are two major female characters to five or six male ones. Both of those have zero character development and are in the plot solely to provide a motivational device for the men. The only purpose of the Kardashian-gone-Harley Quinn gangster girl was apparently to incite murderous frenzy within her partner. The Love Interest, played by Lily James (which already probably tells you everything you need to know about the character), has a far worse fate though. She is never a woman in her own right - she is a candy floss fantasy of everything good Baby wants to have. She never asks any questions, she runs anywhere he tells her to, she is ready to follow him into underworld hiding without even picking her bags up. Moreover, she is presented as Baby’s fantasy in several scenes, where all he wants is her, a car and lots of music. And that fantasy becomes reality - after he spends five years in prison. So, are you telling me a barely twentysomething is unquestioningly waiting for a boyfriend of a fortnight, who endangered her life, for five freaking years without any thought for the development of her own life? Is this really a message we want to be sending in 2017 - girls, your entire purpose is to motivate your men, to present the evil gangsters a soft target to threaten your men with and then forget education and job prospects for a guy you’ve merely met? Don’t women have anything better to do than to stand still and look pretty outside of a car?

Overall, the movie does have great action scenes, cinematography and a fantastic soundtrack. But last I checked, it was meant to be a film, not a Spotify playlist. And, especially given its popularity and near-universal critical acclaim, it’s time we talk about its glaring problems with women. Many action movies have them, true, but we should be especially critical of the ones which make it to all the accolades and admiration- being a ‘cool’ movie shouldn’t be a ticket to ride back to a Mad Men past. 

Find Lewis Thomas' glowing review of Baby Driver here

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