Babylon review | Film pays chaotic homage to early Hollywood cinema

Babylon review |  Film pays chaotic homage to early Hollywood cinema

The film Babilônia, directed and scripted by Damien Chazelle, the name behind the successful feature films La La Land and Whiplash, is arriving in Brazilian cinemas.

  • Babylon | Discover a new film about the beginnings of Hollywood
  • Babylon: Film shows lowliness and orgies in early Hollywood; see the trailer

Babilônia is a film whose premise is to show the beginnings of Hollywood cinema, more precisely during the transition between silent films and talkies. The plot tells this story from the perspective of two very different characters.

The film stars Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt, who play two successful Hollywood actors. While he, older, already has an established career, she seeks recognition and fame. What they share in common, however, is the way in which failure appears in their lives.

Warning: this review may contain spoilers for the movie Babylon!

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early Hollywood

The film Babilônia is extremely chaotic, but the height of the meaning of that word happens in the first half of the film, which lasts more than three hours. Early on, we’re thrown into a Hollywood elite party filled with alcohol, drugs, sex, and other oddities.

The plot takes place between the 1920s and 1930s, introducing us to all the discovery of fame and all the consequences that come with it. Existing relatively recently, movie stars easily fall into the dooms of success, and it is not difficult to end up in a toxic life.

It is no coincidence that many artists of the time ended up dying early, either from addiction or other illnesses, as a result of the absurdly toxic pressure imposed at the time. The film delivers, in the form of chaos, all the questions related to the machismo and moralism of those times.

Jack Conrad, Brad Pitt’s character, for example, is a renowned actor and passionate about cinema. However, with the rise of new actors, especially younger ones, he is forgotten by the industry, occasionally being called to low-budget productions already marked as bad.

Between several marriages and career problems, we see Jack sinking deeper and deeper into depression, which leads him to take drastic measures. At the time, little was said about mental health and, even 100 years later, we still see the artistic class with little advice and support regarding the issue.

In the case of Nellie LaRoy, Margot Robbie’s character, the young actress is classified as a sex symbol, and there is a very popular example of how it was to deal with the machismo of the time: Marilyn Monroe. Like the movie star of the 50s, LaRoy even manages to show that she is talented, but always ends up being reduced by sexualization, unable to fit in with the rest of the industry.

Chaos

The word “chaos” always comes up to talk about Babylon, and it’s impossible to say that it’s a boring movie. At all times there is something important going on, whether they are annoying or amusing. The first part of the plot, for example, brings the chaotic recordings of a great film that is being produced, yielding good laughs and an enchantment for what Hollywood is.

Everything is very exaggerated, of course, but that is exactly the objective of Babilônia: to cause different sensations. The film delights like a small workshop on cinema, disgusts with unnecessary scenes, such as the explosion of elephant feces and intense vomiting, entertains with tragicomic plots and annoys with all the problems it brings.

Even approaching a mute universe in black and white, Babilônia chooses strong and saturated colors to make the chaotic experience even more polluted and full of information. The plot still lasts for three hours to mess even more with the focus and patience of the spectator, which divides opinions about the final verdict of the film.

In addition to Pitt and Robbie, the film features a brilliant cast, such as veteran Jean Smart as Elinor St. John, the musician Flea, best known for playing in the band Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Tobey Maguire as James McKay, Diego Calva as Manny Torres, Li Jun Li as Anna May Wong, among many others.

By engaging with the proposal that Babilônia offers, we don’t even see all these hours go by, such is the attention that the plot manages to conquer. After the tragic endings presented by the feature, its closing pays homage to Hollywood cinema, something that is often done by American filmmakers, crowning what Damien Chazelle wanted to deliver in this new production.

Babylon premieres in Brazilian theaters on January 19.