Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo, and Li Jun Li
Babylon from writer and director Damien Chazelle, is an epic comedy drama set during the final years of the silent era of Hollywood. It follows a wide group of characters as they navigate the changing world of cinema. It starts with a drug-fuelled party where the main characters are all introduced and then follows them throughout the next few years of their lives. While at the party, Manuel Torres (Diego Calva) and Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie) dream of being a part of the glamorous movie world, and when they eventually get there (literally the next day) they find it’s not as fabulous as they first imagined. At the same time Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt) is one of the most popular actors around, and the incoming sound films is threatening his career as he tries to adapt to the future.
Sadly, the film is just a complete mess. None of the characters feel close to real at all, and I didn’t care about any of them, which made the three hour long film, feel so much longer. Near enough every character in Babylon is incredibly hollow and they just go through a meandering and aimless plot that switches between ridiculous parties one moment and making films the next. The characters aren’t interesting enough to justify it. So many things happen, and the film keeps on throwing elaborate set pieces at you, but almost none of it is exciting or even close to being actual entertainment.
It’s way too long, like seriously way too long. At around what I thought was six hours in, I thought it was coming to an end, but then realised that Tobey Maguire hadn’t arrived yet, and then it took another age before he did appear and it’s not quite over then either. It’s incredibly tedious and just plain old boring. The film should be entertaining, because there’s some extreme moments in it, but it just isn’t. At least it makes Avatar: The Way of Water not seem quite as long as before.
Littered throughout the film are incredibly brief moments that are absolute gems and make it possible to believe that somewhere underneath the literal piles of poop, crass jokes, excessive nudity, and meandering plot, there is actually a good film. There’s some really good moments with Sidney (Jovan Adepo), a trumpet player who is facing the racism within America. There’s an excellent scene between Jack and a journalist (Jean Smart) about the brevity of life and how movie stars will become timeless as people in the future will see them on the screen years after the actor has died. It’s these little moments where the film comes to life, you just have to sit through over three hours to get to them. The score from Justin Hurwitz is also really good and deserves a much better film.
Babylon is pure excess from its hedonistic party that opens the film right through to the cinematic odyssey of a finale. It’s an indulgent mess, that has some great snippets, but not enough to make it worthwhile. One of the biggest disappointments in recent years.
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