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Babylon – Film Review

Babylon – Film Review

Writer/ Director – Damien Chazelle
Starring: Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Diego Calva

At the start of this film, we meet Manny Torres (Diego Calva), a young Mexican man working for a famous film producer. He’s organising a party but not just any party, this will be an extravagant affair complete with music, dancers, drink and all manner of drugs. It will be a night of wild abandon, which will include an elephant! We meet Manny, as he’s struggling with the logistics of how to get an elephant to the producer’s mansion, which is easier said than done!

Over the course of the film, we see Manny as he slowly climbs the ladder in Hollywood, selling a piece of his soul as he does so! Along the way, he meets the fabulous young actress Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie) who has similar aspirations to make it to the very top. He also meets the Hollywood great, Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), the dashing matinee idol who may have peaked and is about to start his decline.

This is the work of writer/ director Damien Chazelle, who came to prominence a few years ago for Whiplash and La La Land, the film that almost won Best Picture! Since that time he has explored the heavens in First Man before returning to another film about the movie industry in Babylon.

The film starts in 1926 and we see the transition from the silent film era to the ‘talkies’. It’s a well-worn path in truth, and the film makes reference to ‘Singing in the Rain’ to which it owes a debt in terms of the plot. The story does cover some similar ground but it does so with some style.

The cast all get their moment in the spotlight. While Diego Calva is the focal point, the film explores a variety of different tales. Brad Pitt works well as the fading movie star, and it’s a more challenging role than many he’s taken in recent years. Margot Robbie wears a mischievous grin throughout and she is enjoyable as this good-time girl. There are also many small parts, including Hack’s Jean Smart as Elinor St. John, a journalist who sticks the knife in whenever she gets the opportunity. Even one-time Spider-man Tobey Maguire makes a brief appearance as a frazzled criminal with a multitude of yellow teeth!

The initial long and free-wheeling section of the Hollywood party may be the best part of the film. After that, it starts to get a bit flabby with its exploration of the lives of our three main characters before finding form once more towards the conclusion. With a duration of just over three hours, this is certainly an epic, but some of the scenes could have ended up on the cutting room floor without losing the flow of the story! However, it is nice to settle into the cinema and get lost in a world of glamour for a few hours, even if it’s a film that peaks too early.

Categories: Header, Movie Review, Movies

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