Babylon [2022]

Country:  USA
Genre:Comedy, Drama, History
Rating:7.0  Rate
Collection:  Seen It     Wishlist 
Community: 5 Have Seen, 1 Wishlist

DirectorDamien Chazelle
Selected CastBrad Pitt as Jack Conrad
 Margot Robbie as Nellie LaRoy
 Diego Calva as Manny Torres
 Jean Smart as Elinor St. John
 Jovan Adepo as Sidney Palmer
 Li Jun Li as Lady Fay Zhu
 P. J. Byrne as Max
 Lukas Haas as George Munn
 Olivia Hamilton as Ruth Adler
 Rory Scovel as The Count
 Katherine Waterston as Estelle
 Tobey Maguire as James McKay
 Flea as Bob Levine
 Jeff Garlin as Don Wallach
 Eric Roberts as Robert Roy
ProducerMarc Platt [Producer]
 Matthew Plouffe
 Olivia Hamilton
WriterDamien Chazelle
SoundtrackJustin Hurwitz


Comments and Reviews
5th Mar 2024


13th Feb 2023
 This Is Local London review :read:

23rd Jan 2023
 Rated 7/10
This review will be uploaded to Imdb and contains spoilers

Babylon (obvious nod to scandal book Hollywood Babylon) is a very (post)modern take on old Hollywood. Lavished with profanity, many gross-out scenes and occasional moments of beauty. It's an uneven mix of style over substance. This film has all the elements and many great bits, but as a whole it is coherent, but bloated and not as clever as it should be.

Diego Calva play Manuel Torres, a young Spanish man who seems to be a sort of fixer for rich people, from this slow start he becomes a runner on Hollywood films after befriending a drunken Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt) at a party. At the party he meets Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie) a young woman from the sticks with big ambition to become a star.

The film is about Hollywood actors not being able to make the transition from Silent film to the Talkies which was a real problem at the time. There's a Pygmallion inspired plot with Nellie LaRoy being taught how to speak proper. This subplot would be more tragic if it wasn't played for laughs. Jack Conrad being Hollywood's hot property and a raging alcoholic; a sort of hybrid of Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks and echoing Charlie Chaplin (who famously wasn't as successful in Talkies). It's nice to see Brad Pitt given a chance to test his acting chops with something meaty. Sadly the character is underwritten and always feels a bit one-dimensional, he has a divorce and a marriage within 30 minutes of screen time. When the emotional gut punch arrives, we could spot it a mile off.

Margot Robbie as Nellie LaRoy is one of the multidimensional characters along with Diego Calva as Manny Torres. She's sort of Mildred June, Greta Garbo, Theda Bara and of course Louise Brooks - all of which get referenced. More interestingly I was reminded of recent starlets like Courtney Love and Lindsay Lohan. She's a woman who is possibly a victim of her own actions as well as her upbringing and ultimately we learn she never learns. Diego Calva is Oscar worthy for sure with a surprisingly understated performance amongst many which are deliberately larger than life. A man who fixes other people's mistakes and manages to get recognised for doing it, but ultimately gets dragged down by Nellie.

The film is sort of a patchwork quilt of old and new. As mentioned the deliberately profanity laden script, pop culture references were most characters could be from any era of Hollywood. One highlight was Manny being chased through a series of tunnels in LA's A-hole which was blatantly a reference to Dante's Inferno and possibly the film Irreversible. The real star of the show is the cinematography (a gorgeous palate of browns, reds and burnt oranges) and jazz soundtrack. Even the soundtrack had a modern twist featuring on one track which I suspect used an electronic drum beat. There's also been a recent trend of shock elements in drama and this film has it in spades - a man getting sprayed with elephant dung immediately followed by the last days of Rome party scene: there's a dwarf on a phallic shaped pogo stick spraying white foam into the crowd, a reference to Fatty Arbuckle and a young girl, champagne bottle up the Aris' and later on we have projectile vomiting and some gory scenes. Much like how non-horror films took elements of Slasher films and put them in thrillers we have scenes that wouldn't be out of place in a gross out teen comedy or even a porn film in a mainstream big budget release and I'm not a prude, but you need a strong stomach to get through this one.

I'm a huge fan of films that are "the American dream gone wrong" and I recalled films like Sunset Blvd. and L.A. Confidential both better films. Another meta reference was Manny watching a film in the 1950s, immediately reminding the viewer of Cinema Paradiso (a much better film) and that summed it up. While the film is clever in places and knowing there's not much heart and soul to it. While it is more fun than Silent-era homage "The Artist" it never rises above feeling like its beating the audience over the head with a canapé tray to get the message across rather than being subtle. Quite what the message is supposed to be is open to interpretation: Hollywood is a mean place that will steal your soul, but look at the escapism and artistry on offer.

1 person found this review helpful.   ✔︎ Helpful Review?

22nd Jan 2023
 WhyNow review :read:

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