Baby Driver: A Film with Surprising Combinations

Keen to watch a movie this weekend? Then Baby Driver is a pretty good option.

The baby-faced hero of Baby Driver is a young man (Ansel Elgort) with consummate driving skills and a tortured past. Because of one youthful mistake Baby (that’s his name) has to work off a debt for crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) as a getaway driver on bank heists. Baby meets and falls in love with waitress, Debora (Lily James), and thereafter becomes keenly conflicted about where his loyalties and values lie.

Ansel Elgort, the titular character in Baby Driver. Picture source: Den of Geek

On the face of it this plotline looks like a fairly typical crime drama but the film offers some surprising combinations. Doc is quite funny and the criminal teams he hires are oafs. Baby lives with his deaf, wheelchair-bound stepfather, of whom he takes tender care. Music features strongly; our hero suffers from a constant ringing in his ears and has to listen to music all the time. Many scenes show Baby, a man of few words, seemingly zoned in only to his own inner world, only to reveal that he has observed and memorised everything around him in the minutest detail. And then of course there’s Baby’s past which slowly becomes clear, engendering viewer sympathy in the process.

The driving scenes are really, really good to watch.

Baby Driver opens at cinemas in South Africa on 4 August 2017.

Feldman journeys with the reader to finally unpack his heavy bags

Carry-On Baggage by Howard Feldman

A review by Brenda Daniels

The blurb of Carry-On Baggage describes the author, Howard Feldman, as “a high-flying commodity trader, living a seemingly perfect life, with a perfect wife and perfect children, in an unbelievably perfect world.”

It then goes on in a more sinister tone to say that Howard “gets attacked. And attacked again. Then he gets sick. His business folds. And his carry-on baggage simply gets too heavy to hold.”

Concerned that this “sort-of autobiography” might be just another moralistic misery memoir, I nevertheless was attracted by the travel theme, and decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did. Carry-On Baggage is neither miserable nor moralistic. Nor is it self-indulgent.

It is an entertaining, descriptive, easy-to-read book, written with humour by an author with an obvious interest in other people.

In this story Howard describes his family and business life in South Africa, Israel and the USA. He speaks candidly of family and business difficulties, of personal faults, and how crime in South Africa deeply affected him and his loved ones. Although the crime experienced was devastating and, for Howard, ultimately life-changing, the incidents aren’t belaboured or inappropriately revealing.

Feldman writes with obvious affection about his extended Jewish family, and manages to portray his natural people skills without pride or affectation.

The blurb preps the reader for a change in the author’s life and therefore psyche. The revelation, however, occurs only at the end of the book where Feldman describes psychologically “unpacking his bags” and “lowering his banners”. Although I found this arrangement a little puzzling I really enjoyed the journey.

I was left with a hope that I might one day meet Howard Feldman face to face.

Carry-On Baggage by Howard Feldman is published by Tracey McDonald Publishers. An e.Book is also available.

Visit www.thewriteoutlook.com for more info on Howard.

Photo: Brenda Daniels

Photo: Brenda Daniels

Hairstyles show deeper meaning in American Hustle

A review by Brenda Daniels

American Hustle has been nominated for Best Picture and various other awards for the upcoming Oscar ceremony on 3 March, so I went along to the South African preview to see what all the fuss was about.

The film, set in New Jersey in the 1970s, tells the story of con man, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), and his partner, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). The two meet and become lovers and then, posing as a Briton with “banking connections”, Sydney helps Irving take his underhand dealings to a new level. Caught out by FBI agent, Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper), they are lured into an even bigger world of crime in an effort to catch dirty politicians and the mafia red-handed.

Cooper brought a certain manic amusement to his role as an agent determined to make it big and I enjoyed this. The hoodwinked politician, Mayor Carmine Polito, played by Jeremy Renner, had a certain endearing vulnerability to him, and Irving, convincingly played by Bale, had a soft side to him, exhibiting patience with his dumb wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), and affection for his young son.

The film opens with Irving working on an elaborate “comb-over” hairdo, and most of the characters sported hairstyles that required some work. This aspect seemed to mirror the characters’ fake lifestyles, and highlighted their weak efforts at, now and then, wanting to “be real” with each other.

Apart from these mildly redeeming qualities the characters and action in American Hustle are relentlessly seedy.

It was hard, and in fact quite boring, to enjoy a two-hour film that gave no interesting message, showed no characters I could identify with enough to care about, and provided no relief from the dirt. Whilst I don’t like the 70s era with its iconic clothing, music, coiffeurs and American mobsters, there are viewers who do. They’ll get plenty in this film.

American Hustle opens at Ster Kinekor in South Africa on 28 February. It carries an age restriction of 16LS.

Jennifer Lawrence (left) and Amy Adams in a scene of American Hustle (Source: Creative Commons)

Jennifer Lawrence (left) and Amy Adams in a scene of American Hustle (Source: Creative Commons)