Babylon Image


By Alex Saveliev | December 16, 2022

Talk about going for broke. Young auteur extraordinaire Damien Chazelle goes all out in his epic, cocaine-fueled ode to early-era Hollywood, Babylon. Packed with pathos, hilarity, and thrills, the film immerses the viewer into a time period when folks made movies because they were enthralled by the act of filmmaking as opposed to money-making. Heck, it resembles an old-school feature, albeit told with a hip, youthful sensibility and vigor. These are the breeziest 180 minutes you’ll spend at the theater this year. In other words, Babylon is pure movie magic.

The energy just doesn’t let up. Imagine Baz Luhrmann, Paul Thomas Anderson, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg joining forces, and you’ll still only have a wisp of an idea of what Babylon has in store. From the first explosive sequence, which involves elephant excrement, the craziest party you’ve never attended, abundant amounts of blow, and Justin Hurwitz’s galvanizing score, you know you’re in for a helluva experience. Three hours later, it will leave you overwhelmed but also invigorated and inspired.

“…Nellie fearlessly devotes herself to becoming famous, no matter what it takes.”

At first glance, the plot may seem labyrinthine just due to the sheer number of character trajectories populating the narrative. Fear not: despite all the extravagance and eccentricity, Chazelle is an expert at laying it all out intuitively. We see decades-long events unfold, mostly through the eyes of Manny Torres (Diego Calva), a Mexican immigrant who falls for Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie), an exuberant, mischievous star on the rise. Haunted by a traumatic childhood, Nellie fearlessly devotes herself to becoming famous, no matter what it takes. Manny’s unrequited love eventually leads him to become a Hollywood executive himself. In the meantime, we witness the peak and eventual downfall of major A-list actor Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt).

Babylon resembles a collection of wildly entertaining vignettes masterfully strung together in chronological order. We meet an assortment of colorful characters, like the aging entertainment columnist Elinor St. John (Jean Smart), who has the power to make or break careers; Jack’s right-hand man George Munn (Lukas Haas), whose trouble with women persistently leads him to the brink of suicide; the obsessed German director (Spike Jonze), hilariously barking orders in pursuit of that perfect magic hour shot; and Nellie’s hapless father (Eric Roberts), who exploits his daughter’s success.

We witness the filming of one scene, which requires over a dozen takes to shoot, leading to a character’s death from heat exhaustion. A massive battle sequence ends with one of the horsemen accidentally impaled. The opening party sequence will surely be remembered as one of the most crazed depictions of Hollywood excess to ever be put on film. And rest assured, you will never forget the rattlesnake fighting. Casualties abound, comedy morphs into tragedy, and then back to comedy. Chazelle presides over it all confidently. You can almost see the writer/director rubbing his hands contentedly behind the camera.

Babylon (2022)

Directed and Written: Damien Chazelle

Starring: Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Diego Calva, Tobey Maguire, Jean Smart, Spike Jonze, Lukas Haas, Samara Weaving, Olivia Wilde, Jovan Adepo, Eric Roberts, Jeff Garlin, etc.

Movie score: 10/10

Babylon Image

"…imagine Baz Luhrmann, Paul Thomas Anderson, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg joining forces"

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  1. […] Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, or you could go the Damien Chazelle route and make it more like Babylon. For what it’s worth, watching R provides a hint of what that would be […]

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