Babylon, the latest film by Damien Chazelle, has been the subject of mixed reviews. As the director of critically acclaimed films La La Land and Whiplash, Chazelle has set the bar high for himself. However, Babylon falls short in some areas, leaving audiences with mixed feelings.
In a glitzy new film, audiences are transported back in time to early Hollywood, where the stars lived a life of unbridled decadence and debauchery.
“Babylon,” directed by Damien Chazelle, follows the story of Nellie LaRoy, a promising young actress played by Margot Robbie, Manny, a Mexican all-trade man who wants to work in the film industry and the charismatic movie star Jack Conrad, portrayed by none other than Brad Pitt.
As they navigate the tumultuous world of Hollywood, the pair experience the highs and lows of fame and fortune, all against the backdrop of a time when anything was possible.
“I wanted to capture just how big and bold and brash and unapologetic that world was,” Chazelle shared with Vanity Fair. “It was really a wild West period for these people, this gallery of characters, as they rise and fall, rise, fall, rise again, fall again.”
The result is a film that’s sure to captivate audiences with its vivid portrayal of the early days of Hollywood and the colourful characters that called it home.
Babylon, an ancient city along the Euphrates River, was the capital of two empires between the 19th and 6th centuries BC. It was a cultural and religious center before becoming an independent city-state under the Old Babylonian Empire.
Babylon ultimately fell under the domination of various empires, including the Neo-Babylonian Empire, which built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
The city was eventually abandoned and last referred to as the “small village of Babel” in the 10th century AD.
Babylon, the namesake of Damien Chazelle’s upcoming film, was once the capital of a powerful ancient empire.
Its story begins in the Bible, where humans attempted to build a tower reaching the heavens, only to be thwarted by God, who confounded their language and scattered them.
This event gave the place its name, Babel. Over time, Babylon became more of a metaphor than a physical place, symbolizing oppression, tyranny, and evil.
The Book of Revelation even links it to the Roman Empire and describes the “whore of Babylon.” Babylon also represents decadence, combining excess and pleasure-seeking with imperialism.
Damien Chazelle’s latest film, Babylon, left me with mixed emotions. Some have suggested it should have been a miniseries, but I’m not so sure – perhaps my aversion to Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood still lingers.
The film is undeniably lengthy and could have used some editing. As with La La Land and Whiplash, one of my main concerns was the ending. It seems like Damien struggles to wrap things up, always wanting to keep the story going.
Despite these flaws, Babylon has its redeeming qualities and is better than some critics have made it out to be. So lets deg in, (It contains spoilers)
One major issue with the movie is Diego Calva, the Mexican actor who plays Manuel “Manny.” Now, don’t get me wrong, Calva is a talented actor and all, but my problem with the film has to do with the use of the Spanish language.
In several interviews, I discovered that Calva barely spoke English when he was offered the role, and director Damien Chazelle asked him to work on his English and pronunciation.
It makes sense why Calva improvises in Spanish for over 40 percent of the movie. I’m sure the director allowed him to be as natural as possible, but my issue is that Calva’s slang felt more like something you’d hear in a contemporary Mexican film than someone in the 1930s.
The director and crew didn’t know or didn’t care to put a stop to that slang. If Manny moved to Los Angeles at the age of 12, and his English is good (not just his accent), he should be speaking spanish that much.
We only have a little information about Manny, except that his family crossed the border when he was 12. So why didn’t Chazelle change the timeline and say, “My family and I crossed the border when I was 19?” That would make more sense. Learning another language at 12 versus 19 makes a significant difference.
This language issue took me out of the fiction whenever Calva improvised in Spanish or used Mexican slang. This brings me to my second problem with the film and Chazelle.
After being criticized for his white saviour complex in “La La Land,” Chazelle wanted to redeem himself with “inclusion” by giving the main character to a Mexican and creating two storylines for a queer Asian and a black jazz musician. But that’s not enough.
At the end of the day, we don’t know much about Manny, and Chazelle probably doesn’t know or care to know anything about Mexicans, which is why he didn’t delve deeper into that conflict.
The character of Sidney is just there to check a mark for diversity, and the character of Lady Fay Zhu feels more like a caricature than a real human. That’s not true inclusion; it’s just checking a mark for diversity to avoid getting cancelled.
And at the end of the day, the two main characters with more character development and history are white.
I’m left wondering why the Mexican guy couldn’t save the white girl.
I know Chazelle didn’t want any character to be saved, but Manny survived. Inclusion shouldn’t just be about checking boxes but truly understanding and representing diverse experiences.
From the beginning, it was clear that the movie I was about to watch was a farce. This may something that many critics needed to understand about the movie when they did their reviews.
According to the definition, a farce is a type of comedy that aims to entertain the audience with exaggerated, ridiculous, and improbable situations. It also involves physical humour, absurdity, satire, and parody, among other things.
Within the movie’s first two minutes, an elephant unloads massive excrement onto the actors, confirming my suspicion that this is indeed a farce.
The film takes viewers on a wild ride filled with over-the-top, absurd, hilarious, and thought-provoking situations. It addresses issues such as excess, fame, mental health, abandonment, power, and dream fantasy, all while showcasing the dark underbelly of Hollywood and the film industry.
The movie highlights the use of drugs, alcohol, suicides, betrayals, and other unsavoury aspects of the industry, revealing that many of our favourite films were made at a great cost to those involved.
Although it’s disheartening to see, it’s an important part of Hollywood’s history and all too evident in this movie.
The director, Damien Chazelle, pays homage to ‘Singing in the Rain’ by including several clips from the movie at the end. However, it raises the question of whether it was necessary.
The film could have been just as original without attempting to copy or pay tribute to it, and it didn’t need it.
The Toby Maguire sequence also seemed out of place, as the film shifts from ‘Singing in the Rain’ to ‘LA Confidential,’ and ‘Blue Velvet’ aspects added in.
This theme could have been saved for another movie or utilized differently (with some producers involved in the underworld instead of the mafia). The forced shock value was not only unnecessary but offensive.
Despite this, Margot Robbie delivers an exceptional performance, capturing the film’s tone and going all-in. Brad Pitt is also his usual self, perhaps subtly commenting on his own divorce with the line, “It’s not me who is crazy, it’s the women.”
However, his fake Italian accent and love for Italy in the first act felt misplaced and forgotten afterward.
The final scene and the honest scene with Jean Smart were both beautifully done, making them the best parts of the whole movie.
The crew, including the cinematography by Linus Sandgren, music by Justin Hurwitz, set design, props, makeup and hair, sound, and visual effects, were all equally spectacular.
While this movie is undoubtedly a farce, it sheds light on Hollywood’s harsh realities while still providing plenty of laughs.
It may not be perfect, but it’s worth a watch for anyone interested in the industry or looking for a good laugh. Streaming now in Paramount Plus. Or rent an amazon Prime or Apple TV.
As I said at the begging, Damien has a big problem with the ends of his movies.
The final scenes are bad. Manny takes a bus with his family to visit the studio where he used to work.
After having a nonsensical exchange with the security guard, his child complains about boredom. Manny’s wife suggests going to the hotel, which is presumably not nearby, but Manny decides to wander around and catch a movie instead.
He breaks down in tears during a long sequence about cinema history that looks like a teenager made it on YouTube.
Earlier, Manny had mentioned that he had not been to the movies in a long time, so he decided to visit a movie theatre in Los Angeles. However, he could have easily gone to a theatre there since he lives in New York.
By this point, I am quite irritated. Do we really care about Manny crying for hours? I doubt it.
Did he cry because he realized he had missed his chance to become one of MGM’s biggest producers because he stayed with a woman who had friend-zoned him from the beginning?
Did Mr. Chazelle intend to convey this? Did he hope to create a character like Forrest Gump, who would do anything for Jenny? At least Forrest and Jenny had a long history of being there for each other, having met as children.
Manny instantly meets Margot at a party and falls in love with her, only to ruin his life. This isn’t La La Land; it’s not a musical. I can’t buy it.
Manny cries at the end because he realizes how foolish he is to pursue a woman who doesn’t love him. Hopefully, Damien will pay more attention to the ending in his next movie. If not, his career may suffer, as Hollywood only gives so many chances before ending one’s career.
I am not being overly dramatic; Damien’s career isn’t in danger of being over. However, having a wake-up call to make better ends will be good for him.
Please Let me know what you think of the movie,
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