Baby, baby, baby, we could drive across every state and never run out of songs about you.
What can I say about Baby Driver that hasn’t already been said? Be it Jon Hamm playing the role that few others could have done. To Jamie Foxx, yet again, proving that I never want to have him ride shotgun with me. Maybe write about how I couldn’t find one grievance with the casting? Maybe even how the sound track was so well done that I am listening to it at this very moment? Bellbottoms by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion if you happen to be wondering. I could even write volumes about the artistic approach and angle of perspective in which we the audience are led along Baby’s life, his background, and the motivations for his actions.
Sure I could. I could even talk about the not so subtle way the narration of each scene was so well attached to this amazing sound track, which I am still listening to. Googie Rene Combo – Smokey Joe’s La la, again, if you’re wondering. Yet I don’t want to, and I’d hate to take away content from the many other reviews out there.
So, instead, I’d like to take a different approach. I would, if you would entertain me, like to talk about Ansel Elgort’s role as Baby, our love for living in the moment, and The Allegory of Faith painted by Johannes Vermeer in the 1600’s. Trust me, it will all make sense soon.
From the intro of the movie we are introduced to Baby as the socially shy one of the group. In fact, the socially shy one of every group, allowing him to embody the very nature of the “shy one”. Yet, from his control of a stick to his near omnipotent grasp over traction, he is not a person who lacks confidence. He is not powerless. His fate, as best as he can manage, is his own. We see this again with his interactions with Deborah, played by the wonderfully talented Lily James. Also, in honor of Martha And The Vandellas song, Nowhere to Run, which yes is where I currently am on this staggeringly good soundtrack, let’s give a bow to Lily and Ansel. Ansel, who is well on his way to reaching ‘All I know is that Ansel is in it so sure I’ll watch it at least once’ status, played Augustus Waters in Fault in Our Stars back in 2014. He played a young man, who after paying his debt to cancer, moved through life with a sense of control. Or at the very least with a wanting to impose said control. Not very different from Baby and his own debt to Doc, played by Kevin Spacey. In each case showing us his ability to both lead and still show a sense of helplessness. Then we have Lily who, back in 2015, played the lead in the then remaking of Cinderella. Both roles allowing us to see her take control while being able to see the good in others. Albeit one could argue Cinderella ended with the better partner, I would argue to the contrary. But I digress and let’s move on.
So returning to Baby, he is in complete control when driving, and yet he is completely unconformable. He feels like he has a choice only to have elements outside of his control remind him that he does not, or at least they try with great force to make him feel as if he doesn’t. Now, as promised, this is where we meet up with our painter Vermeer.
In the 1600’s, somewhere in between 1670-72, Vermeer created The Allegory of Faith. It shows a lady faith sitting in front of her own painting of Jesus on the cross. The room is somewhat distraught, as is our lady fate, the cup of fate resting out of her grasp and a globe of the world under her bare feet. Now this is one of his less popular pieces and so I’ll forgive you if you don’t know it and there are wide ranging views on what exactly Vermeer was trying to portray here but let me give you my opinion on the matter. Also of course explaining how it relates to Baby Driver.
As I said before, Baby shows both a massive amount of confidence and awkwardness with the world which he lives in. He is forced to think he has no control over his fate despite always being one arm’s length away from taking control. The loss of his innocence always looming overhead. His life around him a mess and the world left bare under him he feels lost. This too perfectly describes our lady fate. Despite her being painted is a lost and distraught state the chalice of fate is only an arm’s reach away, and like Baby, she does not reach for it and instead simply resigns herself to her fate. In a similar tone when Baby is faced with taking control and fighting for what had been his end goal of escape. He does not, and instead accepts his fate. Now yes I understand how some would argue that he isn’t giving into his fate but instead finally taking hold of it but I would argue that he isn’t. Even more I believe it is a more powerful message to suggest that he isn’t taking control and is instead coming to terms with the consequences of his own actions. Just as lady faith isn’t taking control of fate because Jesus does not want her to as he is accepting the consequences for his own actions.
The idea that no matter how in control you are, no matter how alive the moment, regardless how free to act you may be, your freedom to control, to live, to act, is not also freedom from the consequences of those very things.
In short, and ending with Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man, Baby Driver is a high action, masterfully directed, wonderfully executed movie. Which gives us everything we could want in a great hit while reminding us that; Freedom of choice is not freedom from responsibility.