For the short amount of time it’s been with us, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver has already gained a firm fanbase. The British director’s venture into Hollywood has garnered widespread acclaim, and lead star Ansel Elgort is clawing back some ‘serious-adult’ credos after his spell in teen movies, fronted by The Fault In Our Stars.
His baby face somewhat explains the casting decision, and heartwrenching memories of the doomed romance in TFIOS supposedly give Elgort a firm heartthrob identity and a foot in the door as Hollywood Sweetheart for 2017.
But the man has said it himself — Ansel Elgort is super easy to hate.
There’s no hiding behind the music
Exhibit A, the below music video for the actor’s stab at a serious music career. After keeping his EDM identity incognito under the stage name Ansolo, “Thief” sees Elgort as a proud, loud and provocative musician. But not necessarily the good kind.
Take your pick – between the visceral misogyny, Revenant–esque stares and should-have-stayed-in-1980s dance moves, his musical ventures are really not doing him any favors.
Baby Driver might have given Ansel Elgort the chance to redeem himself and prove that there is a good core behind the pretty face, but the (heart)breaking news is that there probably isn’t.
Baby, played by Elgort, is the skilled fresh-faced getaway driver with excellent taste in music. He’s Kevin Spacey’s onscreen puppet and the long lost baby sibling of the Driver from Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive.
But Ansel Elgort is no Ryan Gosling.
Where Gosling’s character was quiet and mysteriously intense, complex and fascinating, Elgort’s Baby feels flat and frankly a bit selfish. As Lily James charms him and brings an optimistic sugary sweetness to Baby Driver, the lack of romantic chemistry between the pair is obvious.
She asks and gives and pleases, while Baby just keeps listening to his music. The love affair lacks suspense or stakes. Baby feels selfish, and placid; and the audience feels nothing.
What sets Ansel Elgort and Ryan Gosling apart in terms of their silent driving protagonists does come partly from their surrounding atmosphere.
Drive offered a stylized, dark neon thriller dripping in tension, which welcomed lengthy mystery and a creeping sensation of unspoken pain and tension. Baby Driver is stylish in an energetic, optimistic and fun way – violence is cathartic, cars are loud and music punctuates excitement. Baby’s deadpan façade sticks out painfully.
The universe around Elgort in the movie evolves at an incredibly fast pace, always giving the audience humor, violence, style, energy and fun. But he just drives the car, and gives fairly little to make us question why.
So what’s a pretty boy to do?
Ansel Elgort is not the stoic-cool of a young Tom Hardy or the original mysterious Ryan Gosling Driver, but neither is he the wholesome charming of a Zac Efron. The tearjerking story and aesthetically compatible co-star might have been enough for him in TFIOS, but in a high sea of strong creatives in Baby Driver, the face just doesn’t cut it.
So what’s a pretty boy to do? Just drive the car, right?
Way back when teen heartthrobs were more scarce perhaps. Or fans were less vocal and social media didn’t exist. But nowadays, Hollywood is blessed with more conventionally attractive young leads, and the internet is ever affluent with compliments and shrines for the cream of the crop.
What this means is that there is more talent, more choice, and more criteria in worshipping a teen icon – a reputation as a stable, lovable dreamboat has to be earned. Less misogyny, more feeling, another slice of humble pie, and your good looks might actually be worth what you think they are. Just let us know when you’re ready, Ansel.
Originally published on Konbini