While Baby Driver is easily one of the most slick and stylish movies of the year, I’m not sure it’s one of the best. Since this film has received near universal acclaim, I feel obliged to explain – I think Baby Driver is great, and I plan on watching it again if I can. The issue is that it played as a quintessentially male fantasy, and that – for me – made it a less enjoyable experience than it could have been. There is nothing wrong with movies featuring stunning car chases and emotionally stifled protagonists who mumble, but they don’t particularly speak to me. (There’s also the fact that I’ve been spoiled rotten by Wonder Woman.)
Baby Driver follows Baby, a young getaway driver who is seeking to escape the criminal underworld and make an honest living for himself. He meets diner waitress Debora and they both dream of taking a car and driving with no set destination. Everything seems perfect for Baby until he finds out that he isn’t as free of his past as he wanted to believe, and he’s coerced into taking a final job that tests him to his limits.
Every good thing you’ve heard about this movie is true – the action sequences are stunning and visceral, the soundtrack is killer, and the characters are memorable and have snappy dialogue. It ticks pretty much every box that I look for in a good movie, and I think Baby Driver could have been great if it weren’t for its lacklustre treatment of its female characters.
Lily James’ Debora is beautiful, charming and sweet – she’s the perfect girlfriend, demonstrating unflinching and unquestioning loyalty and dedication. The only other female character of note is Darling, another member of the criminal gang that Baby is tangled up with. Darling’s characterisation is essentially limited to ‘sexy badass’, and her ultimate purpose in the film is to serve as a motivating force for her husband. The female characters of Baby Driver are neatly summed up by the header image – a swooning maiden and a pair of boobs in a crop top.
I don’t expect every film to have a female main character, but I do like to think it’s not unreasonable to expect more than this from female supporting characters in 2017. Wonder Woman is a powerfully feminist movie with a strong heroine, but that doesn’t mean the male characters are reduced to boyfriends or sex objects.
I think of Baby Driver and think wistfully of how much more appealing I would have found it had Debora and Baby perhaps had different dreams, but decided to compromise and settle on a path that would allow them to achieve both their ambitions. Instead, Debora is largely defined by the fact that she wants whatever Baby wants, and is a beautiful prize representative of his ultimate triumph. I wouldn’t call it sexist, but I have no qualms about deeming it a disappointment.