A love letter to movies that’s shocking, vulgar, messy and outrageously entertaining.
Before you go skimming to my rating of “Babylon,” I suggest you read my review before you go see it and snap at me for enjoying it.
You get a vintage Paramount Pictures logo, celebrating its theme regarding the Roaring Twenties and the Golden Age shift from silent films to talking pictures. You have characters trying to bring an elephant up hill and one of them being defecated on. And we get to a party full of cocaine, sex, loud music, booze, an elephant that makes it way through, an O.D.ed woman, and a short man jumping on a penis pogo stick, which ejaculates all over the crowd.
Damien Chazelle’s latest movie is an unbelievably mind-blowing experience for me. It’s a 3-hour movie so complex, so vulgar, so in love with movies, and so dangerous, that it should have been rated NC-17, instead of R. But then again, less people would be seeing it, especially the youngsters who either need adult guardians or pay someone to be their guardian, or buy a ticket for “Avatar: The Way of Water,” and sneak into a theater.
Looking at this film is like imagining what probably would happen if Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola collaborated. Seeing this movie left me pondering how movie-goers will take what goes down here. Maybe they’ll love, maybe they like it, maybe they’ll dislike it, and maybe they’ll hate it. I, for one, loved it for its wild creativity.
You have a number of stars like Brad Pitt as silent film star Jack Conrad, Margot Robbie as actress Nellie McRoy, Diego Calva as film assistant Manny Torres, Jovan Adepo as trumpet player Sidney Palmer, Jean Smart as journalist Elinor St. John, Li Jun Li as performer Lady Fay Zhu, and Tobey Maguire as bad guy James McKay. And you also have a number of additional stars popping in. You get Olivia Wilde as Jack’s ex-wife, you get both Flea and Jeff Garlin as studio executives, you get Katherine Waterston as another wife of Jack’s, and you get Samara Weaving as actress Colleen Moore, who serves as a rival for Nellie. It makes sense, considering Robbie and Weaving both look alike.
The rest of the film features Jack falling down hard times thanks to the talking pictures, and Nellie and Manny having a romance while taking on movie careers. Pitt delivers with the right kind of attitude, Torres makes an impressive debut with how his character shifts in tones, Robbie brings back her “Wolf of Wall Street” meets “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” spirit, and Smart is (dare I say it) smart and sassy with her mannerisms.
Chazelle is able to push himself to new heights, by showings us his own styles of the transition of how people saw movies and how the industry changed them for better or worse. It’s probably for worse these days, but I still have faith and optimism. “Babylon” is the kind of movie I’ve never expected from him. Full of shocking and bizarre images, explicit and messy behaviors, remarkable costume and production designs, and stars who crack the vulgarity at their own expenses, you just have to see it to believe it. I was agitated a bit by some of the decisions made during the third act, but I was still at the edge of my seat with anticipation.
Now, if you saw this movie based on the amount of stars I’ve given it, without reading my review, and you came out aggravated at what you see, I did warn you. It’s all written down here. This website is not a diary. It is a review website, and I expect people to read it and heed my words on what goes down in the movies.
Back to it being 3-hours long, as with “Avatar: The Way of Water,” I would suggest you drink little sips at a time.
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