Continuing his love letter to Hollywood, albeit with a darker tone, writer and director Damien Chazelle’s latest film ‘Babylon‘ is all the things you would expect from the La La Land director; glam, glitz and a firery romance that’s doomed to tragedy.
Set in 1926 Los Angeles, Mexican immigrant Manuel “Manny” Torres (Diego Calva) is working at a debauched, drug-fueled party to end all parties at a film Studios executive’s mansion in the desert. He quickly becomes smitten with wannabe film star Nellie LaRoy (played by an incredibly unhinged Margot Robbie). As the party descends into even more chaos, we meet out other key players, lesbian cabaret singer Lady Fay Zhu, African-American jazz trumpeter Sidney Palmer and film star at his prime Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt).
While Nellie quickly becomes a huge silent film star and goes off the deep end with all the trappings fame and fortune can bring, Manny quickly becomes the go-to guy and climbs the studio ranks. The scenes of Nellie and Manny on their own wild career trajectories within the wild-west that was Hollywood at the time are expertly handled, with some truly impressive scenes involving hundreds of extras and some amazing costumes and sets. That’s where Babylon really shines – showing just how extravagant these early studio films were.
We also found the transition and tension the crews and cast found themselves in when silent films turned to sound to be fascinating and very well handled.
While our stars careers are on the rise, Brad Pitts character Jack Conrad is starting to see his popularity wane. His scene with Hollywood tabloid reporter Elinor explaining the end of not just his career, but the end of the error to be one of the most memorable scenes in the whole film.
It’s hard to fault the ensemble cast that includes Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo, and Li Jun Li as well as a truly unhinged Tobey Maguire. They all take these characters on with such love and passion, in particular Margot Robbie’s wild child. Equally the sets, amazing soundtrack by Justin Hurwitz and cinematogrphay kept us hooked. Where the film lets itself down is in the 3+ hour run time, which towards the end just felt self-indulgent and didn’t serve the story’s purpose. Despite the excessive runtime, Babylon is a must-watch film created for the big screen.
– The Plus Ones