BABYLON (2022) – My rating: 7.5/10

A blonde woman in a red dress crowdsurfs at a party.

Babylon is an epic period comedy-drama written and directed by Damien Chazelle. The film features an ensemble cast. Its plot chronicles the rise and fall of multiple characters during Hollywood’s transition from silent to sound films in the late 1920s. OMG, the Hollywood scene was insane back in the day. I hope they have cooled down by now — I didn’t know what to expect and I surely didn’t expect what I saw. Before seeing Babylon, make sure you’re prepared for this “FOR ADULTS ONLY “ film. Despite the Solom & Garmorra-purlieu, Chazelle did an excellent job.

In 1926 Los Angeles, Mexican immigrant Manuel “Manny” Torres (Diego Calva) helps transport a loose-bowled elephant to a debauched bacchanal party featuring an abundance of orgies, cocaine, and a little person on a phallic-shaped pogo stick, just to name a few of the activities) at Kinoscope Studios executive Don Wallach’s (Jeff Garlin) mansion. An uninvited guest appears, going by the name Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie). She gives the bouncer a hard time but meets Manny who becomes quickly smitten with her. She is defined as a brash, ambitious self-declared “star” from New Jersey. Manny confides to Nelle his wish to be part of something bigger. While the elephant walks through, distracting partygoers while Manny helps carry away young actress Jane Thornton, who overdosed on drugs during a perverse urolagniac act (aka, Golden Rain) with obese actor Orville Pickwick (Troy Metcalf). Also attending are Chinese-American lesbian artiste Lady Fay Zhu (Li Jun Li), and African-American jazz trumpeter Sidney Palmer (Jovan Adepo). The flamboyantly-dancing Nellie is spotted and swiftly recruited to replace Jane in a Kinoscope film; during filming, she crudely upstages the star. Manny meets and befriends Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), a benevolent but troubled, oft-married film star, and drives a drunken Jack home. Jack helps Manny secure assistant jobs at Kinoscope, such as finding a new camera to film an outdoors love scene with Jack before nightfall, and Manny climbs the studio system’s ranks. Nellie quickly becomes an “it girl” covered by gossip columnist Elinor St. John (Jean Smart), who also follows Jack’s career.

Babylon is a 3 hr 9 min film that tells an incredible story of Hollywood stars and wannabes who are caught up in all the ups and downs of stardom.  The story mostly exists in the age of silent films. The transition to talking films was devastating for some and a blessing for those who had the right stuff, particularly a pleasing voice, and the ability to read and remember lines. Usually, when there are many A-listed stars in a movie, the movie turns out to be substandard.  Babylon was well done, the actors were brilliant and the length of the film was put to good use.  Once you get over the shock of how these people lived, partied, and, drugged, you are able to focus on a very good storyline. I think Damien Chazelle (director) really captured the ambiance of the 20’s era and the mood and aura of the times.  The story allowed the audience to see how one could get caught up in the demanding and trying times, due to changes.  I liked Babylon very much, there are many twists and changes that make it quite interesting.

Babylon only made $1.5 million on its first day (including Thursday-night previews) and went on to debut to just $3.5 million in its opening weekend (and a total of $5.3 million over the four days), finishing fourth at the box office. As of January 19, 2023, Babylon has grossed $14,343,438 worldwide.  On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Babylon holds a rating of 54% based on 256 reviews, with an average rating of 6.3/10. The site’s critic’s consensus reads: “Babylon’s overwhelming muchness is exhausting, but much like the industry it honors, its well-acted, well-crafted glitz and glamour can often be an effective distraction.” Babylon is not for everyone and is currently playing in theaters — Check It Out!

[BABYLON is Oscar-nominated at the 95th Academy Awards for BEST: Costume Design, Music (Original Score), and Production Design — Totaling  3 nominations]



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