Babylon: living up to its name


Damien Chazelle brought us directly to the gate of the gods with this movie. Chazelle, the director who gave us La La Land, designed a movie that takes audiences through the 1920’s Hollywood and the switch from silent films to ‘talkies,’ through bright lights, loud music, and perfectly vibrant colors. 

The film starts in Bel Air, California, 1926, with Manuel ‘Manny’ Torres (Diego Calva) renting a horse cart to transport an elephant to a party greater than Gatsby could dream of. The next frames show Manny and his associate trying to bring this elephant uphill, and failing. In an effort to stop the elephant from rolling entirely down the mountain, Manny’s friend starts pushing the back of the carriage, and ends up covered in liquid elephant feces. Quite the start. 

Further in, this elephant not only tramples a few party guests, but is also used to distract the drug fueled attendees from a newly dead woman that Manny carries out of the party. Outside, Manny meets a flamboyant (and definitely intoxicated) woman named Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie). This is where the action starts. Nellie claims she is a star, Manny says he has never heard of her, and Nellie insists she was born a star. After a great deal of cocaine and heroin, it is discovered that they are meant to be in, or work on, movies. Manny wants to be part of something bigger, and Nellie wants to prove she has what it takes to be the best actress the world will see, inevitably intertwining their futures. 

A year and some odd months later, the first film with sound is in theaters, and silent actors are now struggling to keep up with the new studios and protocol. Some actors are willingly retiring, some are being forced to, and everyone else is trying to stay relevant.

Throughout the bright lights, amazing music, and turmoil of the time, Babylon does an amazing job of following not only Nellie and Manny though their careers and disappearances, but also others. Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), a drunk, womanizer, and silent actor, is also under the spotlight. Conrad’s best friend, George Munn (Lukas Haas), is followed through his path as the best movie producer in the business. Sidney Palmer (Jovan Adepo) is observed through his career with the trumpet, and soon after, the camera. The most disturbing section of the movie occurs when watchers meet James McKay (Tobey Maguire). Mckay’s rotting teeth and paper-white skin barely briefs the audience for what he shows Manny inside of an old, abandoned tunnel somewhere in Southern California. 

Despite the amount happening at any point in the movie, Babylon never once let go of my train of thought. With a three hour and nine minute run time, I never once felt bored while watching, even during the rewatch. Babylon gets a ten out of ten in all categories, I wouldn’t change a thing.