Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Beguiled and Baby Driver

                                            Distractions, Useful and Deadly

                                                           Reviews by Ken Burke
 I took the time off from writing reviews last week so that my love-of-my-life-wife, Nina Kindblad, and I could slip away about 200 miles to Paso Robles for some southern CA wine tasting as part of the celebration of our 27th wedding anniversary, although I have to wonder if that wedding in the woods would ever have happened had she met me in 1971 when I was a mere 23, in graduate school, and enjoying my more-overtly-bohemian-days (as illustrated in this photo that a friend recently reminded me of) when my Texas summer days (usually 95or higher) “uniform” often was nothing but Levi’s cutoffs, that leather vest (which I made myself [he bragged]), and sandals (but not the buffalo ones from India that I tried once, leading to a wicked rash—OK, I admit that I don’t look any less bohemian now [see the opening image of our February 16, 2017 posting] but I’ve grown back into it after trying to look a little more professorial 30 years ago when we first stumbled onto each other).  Now we’re back to our (San Francisco) Bay Area home where there are more interesting films playing than I’ve got enough time to see so here’s the first attempt in getting some of them reviewed to solve our cinematic curiosity.

                        The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola)

During the Civil War, a wounded Union soldier in Virginia is taken by a student into her almost-abandoned girls school where the owner agrees to let him stay through convalescence, but that becomes troublesome when he provides a romantic attraction for both the only teacher and a teenage student; bitter rivalries develop as the soldier carefully works his wiles.
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): In 1864 Virginia the calm demeanor of isolated, almost-abandoned (even the slaves have left) Miss Farnsworth’s Seminary for Young Ladies is disrupted when one of the few remaining students finds a wounded Union soldier in the woods; she brings him to her live-in-school where the owner reluctantly agrees to let him stay during convalescence before turning him over to the Confederate army (where it’s assumed he’ll probably die in their miserable POW camps).  However, as his injury heals (the school owner also functions as a semi-medic, removing buckshot from his leg) his genteel charm sparks romantic interest from both the school's only remaining teacher and its oldest student, an easily-swayed teenager (ultimately, the owner shows interest as well, further complicating these situations as it seems manipulation is his strategy, although there might be some truth to his interest in the teacher), all of which adds to his problems as he becomes healthy enough to be presented to the local authorities.

 That’s all I can tell you while remaining in no spoiler territory, but I will say the focus of this film is on gender negotiations, interpersonal relationships, and serious questions about what choices are needed when options become exceedingly difficult, all presented in a package of excellent acting (Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning head the cast), solid (or better) command from Sofia Coppola (winner of the Best Director award at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, also wrote the screenplay), well-built-dramatic-mystery, and superb cinematography.  The story proceeds in a rather-expected-manner while the conclusion may leave you a bit confounded, but if this intriguing film should find its way to a theater in your vicinity (it's only in a few hundred at this point) I would recommend you look over various reviews in serious consideration of seeing it, which I think will likely be well worth your time (unless you truly see these females as nothing but “vengeful bitches”).

So, curious readers, if you can abide plot spoilers in order to learn much more about the particular cinematic offering under examination this week please feel free to read on for more of the traditional Two Guys in-depth-explorations in our brilliant (!)-but-lengthy review format.
What Happens: In 1864 Virginia the Civil War continues to rage (we never see any battles, but there are constant sounds of cannonfire in the background, with smoke on the horizon in the outdoor shots, reminding us of the ongoing battles, just as my neighborhood was rife with the sound of fireworks on July 4 although no evidence of the visual spectaculars was on display) as one small group of females has shut themselves off from this surrounding violent world into Miss Farnsworth’s Seminary for Young Ladies, run by Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman, ferociously steely).  One day, while out gathering mushrooms, young Seminary student Amy (Oona Laurence) comes upon a wounded Union soldier, Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell, playing an Irish immigrant with a well-nuanced-menu of emotions), then helps him back to the school (where the front gate is kept locked against the outside world, as this tiny oasis of Catholic tranquility attempts to keep civilization alive with French or penmanship lessons despite surrounding hostilities).  Martha’s as devoted to her Confederate cause as she is to her faith and remaining students—Alicia (Elle Fanning), Jane (Angourie Rice), Emily (Emma Howard), Marie (Addison Riecke), and Amy, although she’s often a bit testy with her only teacher (any other faculty, students, even slaves have abandoned the facility), Edwina Morrow (Kirsten Dunst)—so her initial reaction is to tie a blue sash to the gate, altering the Rebel troops of the presence of an enemy, but she’s finally convinced by the others to allow him to convalesce (after Martha’s used her limited medical skills to remove buckshot from his leg) in a locked room rather than sending him to sure death in the ill-run Southern POW camps.  His presence causes an immediate disruption in the lives of these cloistered women (certainly not nuns, as we’ll soon learn), setting up the tensions and dramatic resolutions to come.

 As his injured leg heals, McBurney finds himself the object of fascination from (eventually) all the females of the school, particularly Edwina and Alicia, as they primp for inviting him to dinner, then giggle along with the younger ones when he attends.  Young Jane (the musician of this group, quite talented on violin and harpsichord) is the most initially-resistive to his presence, although it’s clear that Martha’s only sternly tolerating his intrusion until he’s healthy enough to leave—that is, until she makes her own overture to him as well, which he declines, maybe calculating he’s made a better inroad with love-struck-Edwina, eager to get as far away from this place as possible, rather than Martha who’s already rejected his offer of staying on as a gardener after he’s helped bring some order back to their overgrown plantings, probably their only source of food during these desperate times.  The mounting tension over attracting McBurney’s attention/ affection (Edwina clearly makes overtures toward him, while Alicia sneaks away from dinner to give him a few kisses before locking his door again) comes to a head when Edwina hears noises one night (after he’s declared love for her, told her to wait for him to come to her room), bursts in on McBurney in bed with Alicia, runs into the hall with him close behind trying to comfort her only to be accidently pushed down the stairs by distraught Edwina, resulting in his injured leg now broken, with him unconscious.  Martha declares she’s no surgeon so her only remedy is to amputate the left leg below the knee to keep him from bleeding to death, with she does with Edwina’s assistance.  

 Upon awaking, McBurney howls in both pain and anger at his altered condition, convinced Edwina purposely pushed him (jealousy) while Martha took revenge (rejection).  He still has an ally in Alicia, though, who swipes some keys for him so he's able to escape his locked room on crutches, then he gets access to Martha’s loaded pistol usually kept locked in a desk, threatening to avenge himself on this female group he now sees as his vicious captors before he storms back to his room.

 Edwina removes herself forcefully from John’s enemies list by going in there as well, offering herself to him, drawing an immediate response of sex (mutually-unleashed-passion at best, near-rape of her at worst) as they form a new alliance.  Martha’s got her own response ready, though, sending Amy back into the woods to pick some poison mushrooms (as John has a taste for this fungus, at least the non-toxic-versions) in order to rid their home of this major (or corporeal, if you get the pun) disruption to their formerly-tranquil (yet smotheringly-isolated and unresolved) lives (except for sturdy, self-sufficient Martha).  At dinner that night, though, confusion arises when McBurney apologizes for his previously-fierce-behavior, announcing his plans to leave tomorrow heading west with Edwina away from the war’s turmoil.  Martha continues with the mushroom plot anyway (although Edwina’s reminded she doesn’t care for this delicacy just as she starts to have some), leading to the soldier’s quick death, Edwina’s just-as-quick-return to the fold, all of them (under Martha’s direction) sewing John into a shroud the next day, then carrying his body outside the front gate, to be locked again as the telltale-blue-cloth is tied to it as announcement to the Rebel troops to haul the deceased away, allowing Miss Farnsworth’s Seminary to return to its former state of passive isolation, now devoid of male temptation (which was a conflict for all of them, even Martha in her initially-withdrawn-attitude, as shown in the low-key-lit-scenes early on where she slowly, gently bathes unconscious John’s sensual body in a series of lingering closeups).

So What? You can rarely read or watch any review of Sofia Coppola’s version of The Beguiled without finding at least a reference to (if not a synopsis of) Don Siegel’s 1971 version of the same (both ultimately based on the Thomas P. Cullinan novel, called A Painted Devil* in its original 1966 incarnation) so I might as well conform to cultural expectations (just don’t expect that too often) by noting I haven’t seen this earlier film (nor read the book, heaven forbid!) but based on a summary I've skimmed over the main storyline’s basically the same with Clint Eastwood playing Cpl. McBurney, Elizabeth Hartman as Edwina (however, this earlier version takes place in Mississippi in 1863), although Fanning’s Alicia was called Carol (played then by Jo Ann Harris), a complication regarding Martha’s (Geraldine Page) incest with her now-dead-brother is eliminated from this new rendition, and—in the most significant change—the character of Hallie (Mae Mercer), a slave at the school, is dropped because, as Coppola explains, slavery’s still a charged-enough issue in our society (especially with the rise of hate crimes due to a changed tone in our national politics, along with ongoing deaths of young Black men often by White police with juries rarely finding the cops at fault even though most of their victims were unarmed
none of which justifies the recent vigilante murdering of police, an atrocity of its own that also deserves no support) for her to not want to include such, as a side-concept in a story geared toward issues of power-dynamics as she’s changed the focus to the perspectives of the many women rather than the viewpoint of a lone male as in the Siegel/Eastwood rendering.  (It seems the emphasis then was on Cpl. John McBurney as a tragic victim of atrocious, malicious females with the male director claiming the actions taken against his protagonist [coupled to Eastwood's image as a well-known-macho-actor] are the result of “the basic desire of women to castrate men”**—an idea traced back to Freud I’m sure Coppola took issue with in abandoning her previous stance against creating filmic remakes.)  

*If you’re interested in reading it—described as a “mad gothic tale,” seemingly much more mysterious and disturbing than what’s in Coppola’s film (except for the odd scene where the school group solemnly buries the amputated portion of McBurney’s leg)—but can’t wait for express delivery or don’t want to pay for it at all you can download it from this site but that requires creating an account then possibly dealing with future billings so choose carefully if you should go that route.

**Unfortunately, I don’t have direct access to this quote's source to verify it, but it’s cited as coming from Patrick McGilligan’s biography called Clint: The Life and Legend (Harper Collins, 1999), p. 186.

 Screenwriter Coppola’s been lauded by many for her interpretation of this story, to the point of winning the prestigious Best Director award at the recent 2017 Cannes Film Festival, only the 2nd woman ever to do so (the other was Soviet Yuliya Solntseva [The Chronicle of Flaming Years, 1961])—a strong selling point in my desire to put this film at the top of my current must-see-list—although without knowing what her competition was I must now admit that I’m a little puzzled at this decision because while I found the use of this film's lush cinematography to feel quite compelling, with the ensemble acting always effectively true to the mood of the story (especially as competition for McBurney’s affections grows into conflict among Martha, Edwina, and Alicia, with Amy as his most loyal defender until the end, Jane as the ongoing skeptic), and the disturbing questions about what the presence of this intrusive outsider called for in response first to McBurney’s hostility, then his attempt at forgiveness as he 
prepares to leave their isolated existence, I have to say—much as I admire Coppola’s total body of directive work (especially Lost in Translation [2003])—this isn’t fully what I think of regarding a Best Director's film (especially when compared to a story with so much less contemplative value such as Baby Driver [reviewed here below] but where the execution of an overall tone, along with a wealth of effective details, more immediately calls out for such an award).  Again, to realize a true sense of agreement or dispute about any winner in any competition you need to know what else he or she was up against, but The Beguiled just doesn’t impress me in that manner quite as much as I thought it would, despite the film as a whole being consistently a most intriguing event to watch.*

*To get a sense of Coppola’s directorial approach, though, I encourage you to see this short video (6:08) as she explains the dinner scene where Farrell’s character joins this houseful of females.  I’ll also praise her for shooting on 35mm filmstock rather than video, contributing to the rich, subtle tones of every aspect of this atmospheric narrative, especially those candlelit scenes.

 My reservations about directorial-award-merits aside, though, I did find a lot to keep my attention in this telling of The Beguiled, especially in the dynamics that exist among McBurney and his responses to the women—Martha, Edwina, Alicia—who most intrigued him regarding his options toward the continuing war effort once he’d be deemed fit enough to turn over to the Confederate troops (or maybe just to let escape to fend for himself, if the concept of this bloody rebellion were beginning to wear thin on Martha, an unexplored but viable idea that might resonate with the other events of this story) once he’d failed in his offer of staying at the school as a gardener (even if Martha’d accepted, I guess she’d then have to either hide him from the meandering Rebel soldiers or somehow convince them he was part of their cause, although incapable of combat—an unlikely scenario, given that the South became desperate enough toward the end to force just about anyone who could hold a rifle, even with just one good leg to support his body, into the field as the Confederacy continued its collapse).  It all becomes especially confounding at the end when the conflicting scenarios meet at the final dinner table: Previously, Martha had good reason to think the
fierce, wrathful-hostility of this vengeful man might well do harm to her and all her companions, given his command of their only weapon and his fury at the amputation, justifying the initial plan to poison the intruder (even though they must bear all the responsibility for bringing this man into their well-regulated-lives); however, given his apology and intention to simply leave with Edwina, this twist gives us good reason to wonder if the poisoning was still necessary unless the group feared for Edwina’s safety once this unlikely pair set out to get far away from the war's miseries with a difficult journey to get beyond the battlefields of the many states they'd have to traverse.  Ultimately, it seems Edwina's "sisters" decided she needed to stay put with them in battleground-Virginiaa reasonable decision or not but one that she accepts without complaint.

 A final bit of complexity comes in the last scene as Edwina’s now quietly a part of the Seminary for Young Ladies "family" again, apparently with no malice on their part for her brief defection, joining in the sewing of the shroud around McBurney’s body before it’s hauled out beyond the front gate for the Confederate army to retrieve, the inhabitants of the school now locking themselves in once again, perpetuating their cloistered-existence during this time of great political, social, and personal upheaval.  McBurney inadvertently broke the fragile protective shield these last remnants of civilization had constructed for themselves, so we’re left with the consideration of what to make of both his responses to his unplanned “captivity” and the varied desires of his unintended captors.

Bottom Line 
Final Comments: 
In ruminating about the disruption that McBurney brings into this isolated enclave, I’m reminded of the neighbor character of Mrs. Potts (Verna Felton) in Picnic (Joshua Logan, 1956), one of the “old maids” in a quiet Kansas town, telling Flo Owens (Betty Field) how nice it is to have a man around again when courteous-but-footloose Hal Carter (William Holden) arrives one day on a freight train, seeking work from his former college friend Alan Benson (Cliff Robertson).  Mrs. Potts is charmed by Hal’s virility (just as all the females in The Beguiled are by John’s sudden appearance in their restricted lives), but Flo senses trouble when it’s clear older daughter Madge (Kim Novak, “the pretty one”) is becoming more interested in drifter Hal than wealthy-sure-thing-Alan, just as Martha’s aware of how McBurney’s upset the delicate balance of her religion/tradition-ruled-school (even though she lusts after him herself, just as Flo once gave away her future hopes to a man who abandoned her with 2 daughters to raise).  In its own way, The Beguiled’s just as melodramatic as Picnic with similar secondary sexual tensions as aging schoolteacher Rosemary (Rosalind Russell) is also distracted enough by Hal to practically force reluctant-boyfriend Howard (Arthur O’Connell) to marry her, solving her own school-confinement on the same morning (Tuesday after Labor Day) Madge runs off to Tulsa to meet up with on-the-road-again Hal, basking in the passion her mother once loved (and lost) but likely to result in hardships as this guy and his post-“high school queen with nothing left to lose”* set out to build lives based merely on lust, just like with John and Edwina.

*A line taken from Paul Simon’s “Was a Sunny Day” (on his 1973 There Goes Rhymin’ Simon album); take a listen if you like to this upbeat, jaunty-on-the-surface but ironically-melancholy tune. And, if you'd like to get the sense of what I'm referring to above in Picnic it's all nicely summarized in this "Moonglow" scene (10:05), a big reason Nina enjoys watching this movie every Labor Day.

 At this point in time, The Beguiled is too early in its presence for anyone to predict whether aspects of its direction, acting (quite solid throughout with all the leads—female and male—each turning in strong performances which give credence to their unique characters), luscious cinematography (effectively capturing the misty, mossy-treed world of this tight, one-location setting, even though it was shot in Louisiana close to New Orleans rather than in Virginia) will struggle for acceptance like John and Edwina might have (along, in their own time, with Hal and Madge) or find a secure sense of entitlement as personified by Martha’s command of her environment (even when threatened by an angry, pistol-totting-amputee).  Critical response has been accepting but muted, with 77% positive reviews surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes, a surprisingly-almost-identical-score of 76% at Metacritic (details in the links connected to this film far below), with domestic (U.S.-Canada) income at a so-far-restrained-level of about $3.5 million after 2 weeks in release, but with available theaters jumping up from 4 to 674 so positive word of mouth, the appeal of these many well-known-performers, and the possible carryover of female audiences continuing to have something to celebrate about their lead presence on the silver screen following the ongoing financial triumph of Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins—now holding the record for the biggest domestic opening of all time for a woman director; review in our June 8, 2017 posting)—about $714 million in worldwide receipts—we may continue to find “buzz” about The Beguiled long after the summer blockbusters have faded away, making way for additional awards considerations which this film could easily accomplish, that is if voters’ memories aren’t too end-of-year-focused.

 For each of my Two Guys reviews (while I keep wondering when the other guy is ever going to write one) I attempt to wrap up my commentary with the choice of a Musical Metaphor to offer some final perspectives on the subject at hand from the viewpoint of another artform; in the case of The Beguiled I’m pushing the “metaphor” aspect to the fullest by choosing Bob Dylan’s “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” (from his fabulous 1966 Blonde on Blonde album) to be found at https://www. PNaHkcLcNQ (Yes, this is a cover version, but at least you can understand the lyrics in a manner that reasonably resembles the original Dylan record; if you’d prefer to hear [more or less] Bob singing it himself here’s one option at [from a 1978 concert rehearsal at some unidentified—to me at least—time and location], although his delivery isn’t quite as clear as on the cover version but that’s often the case for now-Nobel-Laureate-Dylan* from his mid-‘70s concerts on to the present, based on my frequent [and often—but not always—frustrating] experiences of paying for live performances or watching YouTube videos trying to clearly understand him, so if you want to see what fascinated me about the song so many decades ago please refer to the original 1966 album, which you’ll likely have to buy from some source rather than listen to the idiosyncratic-
performance-options on the Internet, although I do know there’s a free option on Spotify if you care to sign up for that service; even if so, this link may take you to the entire album so you'll have to choose Track 4.)  My own connection to this song goes back for several decades, in that when I first listened to it with an early college girlfriend we both focused only on the fascinating lyrics, typical of Dylan’s insightful way with his words; however, after I broke up with her I began to see just how appropriate those words were regarding whatever didn’t work out so well between us toward the relationship's final days.  Similarly, when listening to it again while driving with Nina back from our recent trip I internalized it once more, in an abstractly-nostalgic manner, then was struck a few days later with how it conjured up some relevances for The Beguiled in how these sung statements could be interpreted as being from the perspective of either Cpl. McBurney or any of the women who became so entranced with him (Amy falls for him as well, but from an child’s innocent perspective).

*If you’d like to hear it, here’s Dylan’s long-delayed Nobel lecture (27:07) in literature, from June 4, 2017—even though he received the award months earlier in October 2016—which is about as obscure as his famous 1960s surrealist lyrics, with lots of ruminations on Herman Melville’s Moby Dick; or, The Whale (1851) and more from other authors, that somehow (I guess) relate to his songs (he admits he doesn’t attempt to know what they all mean) which justified this prestigious award (I’m very glad he won it, but more traditional defenders of literature have lodged some complaints).

 This harmony of song and film fits when you contemplate lines such as “I didn’t mean to treat you so bad You shouldn’t take it so personal I didn’t mean to make you so sad You just happened to be there, that’s all […] But, sooner or later, one of us must know You just did what you’re supposed to do Sooner or later, one of us must know That I really did try to get close to you.”  The theme we find within "One of Us Must Know ..." becomes especially relevant if you apply it to the quick tryst with Alicia which leads to the escalating crises—especially the one with Edwina that carries on to John’s demise—driving the remainder of the story, if seen from McBurney’s viewpoint:  “When you whispered in my ear And asked me if I was leavin’ with you or her I didn’t realize just what I did hear I didn’t realize how young you were.”  Yet, when he blames Martha for amputating his leg in retaliation for not choosing her over her rivals, he tries to make amends at his final (unbeknownst to him) dinner, implying “I told you, as you clawed out my eyes That I never really meant to do you any harm.”  Director Coppola might not see my rationale in choosing this song to explore the myriad emotions in her film, but I’ll stand valiantly by my choice because “Sooner or later, one of us must know That I really did try to get close to” what she was doing here, even if I have no conclusive idea how she’s deviating from what’s gone before in the Siegel/Eastwood/Page/Hartman/Harris versionI struggled a lot with my thoughts on this current … Beguiled, not sure that 3½ stars indicate enough about its quality but finally deciding there’s still something essential missing here needed to get it up to my 4-star-level; however, it’s definitely worth seeing for yourself to find out if you agree or not.
SHORT TAKES (spoilers also appear here)
 There are 2 reasons why this next very effective movie’s under my Short Takes heading rather than being more of a featured review: (1) Not only is the plot very straightforward so there’s little need to be too detailed about the events but it’s also a cinematic experience best seen rather than read about—words get distractingly-clumsy after awhile attempting to describe these screaming-action-car-chases; (2) due to being in a crowded theater I wasn’t in a position to take notes with my tiny flashlight so I can’t say I’ve remembered the finer-point-details anyway.  Therefore, let me give you a sense of what happens with a strong encouragement to go see it on your own (although you may want to do your viewing first if you don’t want to be upset by my usual helpings of plot-revelations).
                                 Baby Driver (Edgar Wright)
Baby, a young getaway driver for a crime mogul in Atlanta, is working off a debt to his boss after which he hopes to simply go away to somewhere in the west with his new waitress girlfriend, Debora, but the boss has other ideas; this highly-energized-movie is largely synced to an almost non-stop-soundtrack, keeping everyone’s adrenalin constantly in motion.
What Happens: A young man (Ansel Elgort) in Atlanta, GA goes by the name of Baby, constantly feeds music from his many MP3 players into his earbuds to drown out the ringing in his ears from tinnitus (caused by a car accident when he was a child, as belligerent Dad argued with Mom [Sky Ferreira in flashbacks], distracting her as she crashed into the rear of a huge truck), lives in a dumpy apartment with deaf foster-Dad Joseph (CJ Jones), and works as a getaway driver for local crime entrepreneur Doc (Kevin Spacey) in order to pay off the debt of a car Baby once stole from his vicious boss.  The music inflow not only helps Baby focus (even as he continues to easily hear conversations in his vicinity, able to recite them back verbatim) but also energizes him for the mad-rush-strategies he uses to elude pursuing police from the heists Doc plans using various gun-totting-thugs such as hot couple Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eisa González) or ever-angry-Bats (Jamie Foxx).  The getaways from the bank robberies are monumental in their staging (all timed precisely on-screen to the rhythm of the soundtrack), but Baby’s just trying to repay Doc what he owes (most of his ¼ share from each job goes to Doc, but Baby’s got quite a bit stashed under his floor as well) so he can head west to parts unknown with new girlfriend Debora (Lily James), a waitress at the diner where Mom used to work (she also had an emerging music career cut short).  Once the account’s balanced, though, Doc still insists on Baby working for him due to his unique skills, so our troubled protagonist tries to slip away only to be forced back into the next robbery.

 Through a complex set of maneuvers (that don’t need to be explained in detail), the latest holdup gets compromised when Baby warns an employee not to enter the scene leading to her altering a security guard, Baby then rams his car into a protruding metal pole to kill Bats in response to the many deaths this hothead's responsible for, Darling dies in a shootout with the police, Baby manages to get away in order to deliver Joseph (and a robe full of cash) to a retirement home for his safety, followed by a plea for help to Doc so the young couple can escape only for the boss to be killed also, leaving Baby and Debora to attempt eluding crazed Buddy who’s finally shot by Baby, falling several stories in a parking garage onto his already-flaming-car (... Driver's destruction scenes are really spectacular).  However, Baby and Debora only make it to Alabama before their hopes end at a police roadblock; Baby gets a lot of supportive testimony at his trial so he’s eligible for parole after 5 of his 25-year-sentence; the ending shots of his release feature Debora waiting with an old-school-convertible as their dreams settle into reality (part of that active-event-closing montage shows him getting medical attention in prison so maybe the tinnitus is cured; hopefully so, as we no longer see him with those ever-present-earbuds while diligently doing his prison chores).  By the way, we find out Baby’s real name is Miles (possibly Mom was a fan of jazz great Miles Davis or maybe she just somehow knew her boy’d be piling up a lot of his own miles behind the wheel).

So What? The music rarely stops throughout
Baby Driver, but unlike most soundtracks that exist for the emotional support they provide for audiences as we watch our characters go through their narrative challenges this time we’re hearing what Baby (occasionally, other characters as well) does, providing us with the “metronome” of beats the movie’s actions are synchronized to, with the greatest impact in the car chase scenes.  This all begins with the first bank holdup, followed by an intensifyingly-screeching-getaway cut to the tune of “Bellbottoms” (Jon Spencer Blues Explosion)*, followed by the opening credits over a continuous Steadicam shot of Baby getting coffee for Doc and the other 3 from that robbery synched to the flow of “Harlem Shuffle” (the original 1963 version by Bob & Earl, before the Rolling Stones covered it in 1986 on their Dirty Work album), but as this story progresses we understand that what we experience as a soundtrack used for an added enhancement to the screen-action is always what Baby’s chosen for himself (from one of his several MP3 players, each filled with differently-directed-playlists) to ward off the self-generated-intrusion inside his head as 
As an example of the offbeat humor of this movie, this robbery 
scene is somewhat compromised because the guy charged 
with buying masks of the killer Michael Myers in Halloween 
mistakenly gets comedian Mike Myers Halloween masks, 
which don't have the same intended intimidating factor 
for the heist (but they still got a big load of cash).
well as give a specific rhythmic direction to his next move. I doubt that I've heard such a fine use of music to give cohesion to a plot flow since what I witnessed of Hal Ashby weaving together so effectively in Coming Home (1978)
or the magic Lawrence 
Kasdan compiled in The Big Chill** (1983), but those are background-collages intended just for audience-edification whereas Baby Driver’s tunes are integrated into the flow of the editing, plus it seems to be almost nonstop music with the movie running at about 113 minutes, the soundtrack album clocking in at 104 min. (and yet, not all of the movie’s extensive music is contained therein).***

*Here’s a short analysis of this opening scene from a New York Times article with 3 short video clips to illustrate how Wright's conceptualization and execution were merged in this frantic movie.

**For some unknown reason I can't seem to get the intended link above to connect so the website's at if you'd like to examine it.

***Once again, you can visit Spotify if you'd like for access to 27 of the soundtrack album’s 30, but, again, you'll probably have to register for this service for this link to work, or if you’re a total-completist then you should go here for info (and links) to all 44 music cuts used at various lengths during the movie (although a few of these links will take you back to Spotify as well—it's inevitable).

 As I’ve noted above, though, words—even as song lyrics—eventually come up short in an attempt to describe what makes Baby Driver work so well because it’s marvelously invested in its visceral experience of Baby’s cars roaring past obstacles, then changing directions instantly as if he’s playing a video game rather than flinging his comrades around in a hurling mass of metal, finding escapes where none seemed possible only seconds before.  All while the music continues to jolt the driver just as he’s jolting around in the car constantly pirouetting among his gas pedal, brake pedal, gear shift, and steering wheel in a manner that makes the car chases in the Fast and Furious franchise look almost as cartoonish as what Pixar offers us with their animated Cars stories (with Baby Driver possibly giving Lightning McQueen [voice of Owen Wilson] a “run” for his [its?] money, as Baby ’s racked up almost $37 million worldwide in its first week of release [the vast majority of that coming from domestic sales] while Cars 3 [Brian Fee] has taken in about $174 million worldwide after 3 weeks [about $53 million of that from overseas sales], so stay tuned as to how these 2 auto-centric-stories play out in box-office-competition). Baby Driver’s truly something you have to see (and hear) to fully appreciate; I heartily encourage you to seek this movie out in your local theater (it’s in plenty of them) rather than just trying to synthesize its impact from the feeble shadow of written commentary (mine or most anyone else’s).

Bottom Line 
Final Comments: 
Cars 3 may currently be ahead in ticket sales compared to Baby …, but the critical response to these 2 movies could barely be more different, with the Pixar picture scoring only 68% at RT, 59% at MC while … Driver can boast 98% positive reviews (of 202 surveyed) at the former, 86% at the latter (quite high for this group of intended-taste-makers), one of the reasons why—despite all of my ongoing, overall admiration for the quality of Pixar products—I haven’t seen Cars 3 (at least not yet) while I sought the opportunity to take in Baby Driver as soon as possible.  Its constant racecar pace (which I’m happy to see in measured-cinematic-doses rather than watch professionals go around in circles for hours at various holiday-“500”-events), the compelling screen presences of all the major players (Spacey’s got that scary-persona-thing going full-bore again; Foxx is delightfully irritating; Hamm provides great impact when his stockbroker-gone-bad-character turns into cold-blooded-monster at the end, determined to avenge Darling with Baby’s blood, to the point of constantly coming back from the seeming-dead to almost enforce his cruel will on our suddenly-ferocious-heroBaby’s basically quiet for much of the movie, until he starts chatting with Debora, then becomes quite verbal at the end when he’s set to protect her as well as save himself from Buddy’s wrath), the unexpected use of wacky humor at various times, and, if you’re younger than I am (an increasingly-likely-proposition), you’ll probably find much to relate to in the soundtrack beyond its fine foundational-use for on-screen-action/editing purposes.

 In that most of what’s driving Baby with these songs is way beyond my faltering memory-archive (even when this music's put into some abstracted-collages as Baby does by recording random bits of conversation, then mixing them into contemporary formats of  what might be recognized  as “musique concrète”—then put onto audio cassettes, in a nod to old-school-sensibilities such as mine), except for the occasional use of classic pop artists such as I found with Martha and her ever-present-Vandellas (“Nowhere to Run”) or the rich baritone sounds of Barry White (“Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up”) or The Button Down Brass (don’t know them but I sure know “Tequila”—both on the radio and in a frosty glass) I’m easily drawn for my Baby … Musical Metaphor to the movie’s final credits use of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Baby Driver” (from their 1970 Bridge Over Troubled Water album) at (with footage from the movie added; it’s pleasantly ironic that whomever compiled this video apologizes for the images moving so slowly compared to their actual screen-speed, but for me that makes it all the more intriguing given how fast everything zooms around in the actual movie—even more interesting is Wright's claim that this song, despite the content overlaps, was not the inspiration for his story) both for its long-time-familiarity to me and for its relevant lyrics to this narrative (which I noted immediately) such as “I was born one dark gray morn With music coming in my ears [… then, regarding Debora] I’m not talking about your pigtails But I’m talking ‘bout your sex appeal Hit the road and I’m gone […] I wonder how your engines feel.”  Baby Driver’s guaranteed to rev up your engines too, so “Scoot down the road” to see it as soon as you can, then catch up to me again next week as I try to keep up with all of the intriguing choices currently playing or opening so very soon.
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
We encourage you to visit the summary of Two Guys reviews for our past posts.*  Overall notations for this blog—including Internet formatting craziness beyond our control—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage If you’d like to Like us on Facebook please visit our Facebook page. We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!

*We’re sorry to say that a Google software glitch causes every Two Guys in the Dark posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to the Summary page, but there are just too many to go back and fix them all.  From 8/26/16 forward this link is accurate, with hopefully not too much confusion caused by this latest stupid snafu from the Alphabet overlords’ programming problems.

Here’s more information about The Beguiled: (37:03 press conference from the 2017 Cannes Film Festival with director Sofia Coppola, actors Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke, and producer Youree Henley [although the first 4 do most of the talking])

Here’s more information about Baby Driver: (click the 3 bars in the upper left of the screen for more info) (31:10 interview with director Edgar Wright and actor Ansel Elgort)

Please note that to Post a Comment below about our reviews you need to have either a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken*

*Please note that YouTube keeps taking down various versions of this majestic Eagles performance at their 1998 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so I keep putting in newer links (of the same damn material) to retrieve it; this “Hotel California” link was active when I did this posting but the song won’t be available in all of our previous ones done before 7/6/2017.  Sorry, but there are too many postings to go back and re-link every one.  The corporate overlords triumph again.

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.
Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 38,345 (a new all-time-high!—along with hitting 5 of my 6 hoped-for-continents again last week [missing only Africa] with another of those mysterious big boosts from Russia along with the vast majority from the U.S., however still with my ongoing frustration that I compose on Safari—works best with my Mac—but this blog’s viewers are less than 1% on that system while 76% look in via Firefox where I know the layout isn't always like what I struggle for hours to rectify on Safari so I just hope all you Firefox users take a look at the Two Guys site on Safari or Chrome once in awhile to see what the actual intentions were); below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:

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