The Zero Mile Post marked the meeting of two railway lines and possibly the beginning of the city of Atlanta. Zero Mile is a series of sometimes fictionalized and sometimes real stories based on life in Atlanta, Georgia.
By Nicki Salcedo, contributor
I didn’t know the movie “Baby Driver” was set in Atlanta until Baby, the main character, walked out of Octane Coffee Bar holding a to-go carrier with four brown cups. I guess I could’ve looked at the movie poster, with the gigantic Atlanta skyline in the background, but I hadn’t.
“Baby Driver” is a heist movie. You’ve seen this kind of film before. Big guns, wads of money, car chases, fast women who like the rush of breaking the law, men who don’t give a damn about consequences, brooding men, sinister men, and sweet women who see the hero for who he really is.
What you haven’t seen is a movie like this set in Atlanta. Baby Hollywood.
Most movies filmed in Atlanta aren’t set in Atlanta. Most movies about Atlanta aren’t really about Atlanta. “Baby Driver” was a fast-paced tour of Atlanta without having to hop on a Segway.
Someone in New York will watch “Baby Driver” and think, “Octane is a funny name for a coffee shop in a heist movie.” They won’t realize that it’s real coffee shop. I’ve been stone-cold drunk on coffee from Octane at 11 o’clock in the morning while straddling the barista’s motorcycle in the parking lot. I probably could’ve robbed a bank that day.
If Hollywood is a town of failed actors turned waiters, Atlanta is a town of aspiring poets turned coffee baristas. The best places to drink coffee across the city don’t have coffee in the name. Dancing Goats, Java Monkey, Karvana, Ebrik, and Octane. That part of the movie was 100 percent realistic. The rest was ridiculous fun.
The audience did a collective gasp at the sight of our local coffee place. Then someone whispered, “That’s not where Octane is!” They stuck a fake Octane in place of a regular pizza place. They interspersed quite a few real Atlanta places with fake places. That was my signal that we were entering Hollywood Atlanta.
If L.A. is a town of fast and furious car chases, ala O.J., then Atlanta can be a city of silly and speedy car chases. Everyone knows you can’t be a getaway driver in this city unless you ride in the HOV lane and have a Peach Pass. Even then, only rob banks on the outer rim of Gwinnett County while heading north on I-85. Do not rob a bank on college football game days. Or any other day with a sporting or concert event. This includes the University of Georgia. Tailgating 60 miles away in Athens, Ga still causes a traffic jam in Atlanta.
Better yet use a helicopter for your heist. Better yet, set your heist movie in Moline, Illinois. I should know. I once raced from Dubuque, Iowa to the airport in Moline, Illinois. No other cars. No potholes. No delays. I drove like the cops were chasing me, and I made my flight with time to spare.
I don’t need accuracy in a heist movie. I need a predictable storyline, a look at my favorite places around town, some music, and a few laughs.
In Atlanta, the real reason you need a getaway driver is not for the fast getaway, but so the A/C is already running when you get into the car.
No diner in Atlanta is empty at 2 a.m. Even in the suburbs. The night clubs might be closed, but someone in this city is always hungry. Waffle House would’ve been packed.
The chef at the diner is both white and without gold teeth? Y’all, please. If you’re cooking my food at a diner, please have at least one gold tooth. This is Atlanta not Poughkeepsie.
A cheerful woman who works at the post office? For a second, I thought it was “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” I actually shouted, “Run, Baby! It’s a set up!” before I realized they wanted us to believe that a happy person worked for the United States Postal Service.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the Postal Service. I’ve got a great post office in Decatur. They are really nice to me and provide exceptional service. They’re also across the street from the good coffee shop. I’m not saying the two are related, but it’s something to think about.
The movie got a few things right.
Baby’s foster dad.
Doc’s nephew, the observant indifferent savant.
The soundtrack. Atlanta is a city with different melodies. We aren’t a one-trick Trap town. We like all kinds of music.
It was the first movie set in Atlanta that didn’t have an ensemble of bad Southern accents. Thank you for giving me us even 15 minutes of Jon Bernthal. Every time he sets foot in Atlanta an angel gets his wings. Thank you to all the actors for showing the range of accents that you will find in Atlanta. It’s the city. We speak mostly neutral with a hint of twang.
Even Baby’s love interest Debora did all right for a British actor. Hollywood, please remember two things about our accent:
One, don’t use “Gone with the Wind” as your accent tutor any more. Women in the South aren’t that out of breath. The breathy Scarlett O’Hara voice is so 1860. I’ve sat at Margaret Mitchell’s desk. I’ve touched her typewriter. I know these things.
Two, the true accent isn’t about the breath, it’s in the extra syllable. Southerners speak like slightly pissed off teenagers. Mom is Ma-um. You’ve seen the movie “Arrival.” If Amy Adams can talk to aliens, Hollywood can figure out a way to talk to ATLiens.
Bacchanalia is not the best wining and dining in the city, but it is the most expensive. I can thank that restaurant for once serving me the thymus gland of an animal under the guise of fine dining. But their cold cucumber soup is good if you can’t get to Waffle House.
“Baby Driver” was about as much Atlanta as I could handle. Then I saw “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Atlanta overload. There is so much ATL in Hollywood right now. I can’t complain. It is fun. It is a thrill. We should enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Nicki Salcedo knows the loops and the back roads of Atlanta. She is a novelist, blogger and working mom. Zero Mile stories appear on the Atlanta Loop on Wednesdays.