A tale that traces the rise and fall of multiple characters during an era of unbridled decadence and depravity in early Hollywood.
THE GOOD STUFF
DIEGO CALVA- Calva was most recently nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in this film, and I have to say it’s very well deserved. He is the emotional anchor that holds the entire story down (for the most part), and his character is the most fleshed out compared to all of the trillions of characters we are introduced to.
He has a good number of scenes that fully shows his range. He is equally hilarious and heartbreaking, with quite a few scenes that are borderline amazing with every major character in the cast. Amidst all the kudos that can be given to a film like this, he should receive the majority of them.
THE COMEDY- This film’s first and second hour or so is almost a joy to watch. The audience is treated to some truly comically insane scenes of old-time Hollywood excessiveness that are incredibly executed in each sequence’s performances, writing, and contrasting visual styles.
Damien Chazelle is a director who’s often associated with the word overrated, and that seems ridiculous when you consider how absolutely fantastic the first two hours of this film are. He is brilliant at what he does with the first two hours, and I really hope he starts focusing his attention on comedy a bit more in the future. He has an eye for it.
THE SOUND TAKE SCENE- In a movie filled with absolutely batshit insane sequences that fall one on top of the other, by far the most hilarious scene in the funniest section of this film is a scene in which Margot Robbie’s character is simply trying to hit a mark on a soundstage and deliver a line in a scene that is all but one minute long in total with absolutely calamitous results.
To any actor anywhere who has ever had a bad day on set, this scene may give you a flashback or two. There are many fancier-looking sequences in this film, but none of them hit nearly as hard as this. By far the funniest scene in the movie, and now that I think about it, it’s one of the best singular scenes in all of 2022.
THE BAD STUFF
JACK CONRAD- I have often said that Brad Pitt is a brilliant comedic actor more than anything else. Many others have also said this as of this point, and I feel that I’ve been saying it longer than anybody else, but I’ll digress. When Pitt does get a chance to flex his comedic chops, this movie behaves at its best. The problem is that that doesn’t happen too often in a three-hour running time.
His character Jack Conrad is in a very different movie than every other character in the film. Though I understand what his character is supposed to represent and why Pitt specifically plays this character has some symbolism behind it, his storyline belongs somewhere else. Am I saying that you can cut his character out of the story entirely and still get the gist of everything that the movie is trying to convey? No. But it definitely could have been shaved down a great deal. And I get the feeling that if it was any other actor but him playing Jack Conrad it might have been cut down nonetheless.
NELLIE LAROY- For the record, Margot Robbie’s been nominated for two Oscars and four Golden Globes. I am not implying that she does a poor job in this film, but I’ve seen her do some truly wonderful things on screen that outshine her performance here by miles.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but there’s this thing I’m noticing about a certain type of Margot Robbie performance. I believe this is a thing that’s just starting to happen that I like to call Harley Quinn-ification. (I’m workshopping the term okay?). I saw it a tad bit in her performance in AMSTERDAM earlier this year, and in this film it is on full fluorescent display. This character is a way nicer version of Harley Quinn minus the Joker set in the 1920s era. There’s just no other way of putting it.
Her performance as Harley Quinn perhaps is so borderline iconic at this point, that if you’ve seen any of the films in which she’s played that character more than once, you will instantaneously identify the exact same traits. Because this movie is three hours long I thought they were going to shift things perhaps even a tiny bit when it came to the idiosyncrasies of this character, but no. Again, not a bad performance by any means, but even when things get dramatic….. IT’S STILL HARLEY QUINN. It’s just so hard to unsee.
THE UGLY STUFF
THE DISASTROUS LAST HOUR- Sweet baby Jesus what was this bull****. BABYLON is a film that has been advertising itself as nothing else but a comedy. It is nominated for five Golden Globes in the comedy category, and given the comedic nature of the first two hours of this film that is justified actually. But the third act of the film takes a hard and sharp turn into multiple genres that can’t be explained here because of spoilers.
In the third act, the comedy altogether and utterly disappears, and we’re left with something that we didn’t pay money to come to the theater to see. I understand why one would want to subvert the expectations of the audience. I can understand not wanting to be too predictable in your execution. But this is a three-hour film. And the third hour of this movie really, really, really, motherf****** REALLY tests the patience, the suspension of disbelief, and the endurance of its audience. It is all at once bizarre, incomprehensible, pretentious, and honestly borderline boring compared to what you’ve seen up until that point.
We are hit with a multitude of montages explaining key plot points that should have been shown on screen honestly, certain storylines are completely dropped and not revisited, and then a certain famous actor (whom I cannot mention for the sake of spoilers) shows up as some final boss out of nowhere simply to give a couple of main characters a direction go towards the end of the film. Really horrendous on all levels.
Ultimately, BABYLON is a film that depicts the filmmaking process as miserable and stressful, the process of making deals to get the films made as soulless, the process of performing in films as arduous and chaotic, and the glory you get from any of it as fleeting, and ultimately heartbreaking, and then you’ll get hit with a five-minute montage tribute to the history of film that would be worthy of being on an Oscar’s telecast in between commercial breaks. What the f*** is the message here? Is the point to be contradicting maybe? I’m confused on many levels.
Sometimes you run across a film that does its job just fine, only to end so terribly that it ruins the rest of the experience. BABYLON is the foremost example of this occurrence and should have a term devised on its behalf to define the occurrence for future reference.
BABYLON is in theaters now.