Babylon It is a movie just to exploit and enjoy the silent times of the talkie era of filmmaking. There was a simple art to silent films, and director Damien Chazelle comically and beautifully reflects this in this tragedy-filled tale of the world of cinema.
Four characters show us what exactly this world was all about. Now was that movie too fantastical? Yeah. Quite a lot, but the way these guys moved on with their movie passion kept Babel grounded.
In the midst of a raging party full of entertainers, singers, dancers, actors and prostitutes, Manny (Diego Calva) bumps into Nellie Laroy (Margot Robbie), an unknown aspiring actress who hopes to make it big one day. There is an instant connection between the two, but their aspirations take a front seat when Nellie lands a lead role in a silent film and Manny ends up on a film set, helping famous movie legend Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt). Meanwhile, black trumpet player, Sidney Palmer (Sydney Palmer) is making his rounds in the music world.
Babylon is very motivated in keeping these characters interesting. However, it still excels in long cutscenes, quirky action, comedy, and hints of romance – we get to really understand each character’s motivations.
Manny wants purpose, Nellie wants to be a star (she is a star, she claims), Jack Conrad lives and dreams of acting, and Sidney Palmer enjoys playing the trumpet no matter the range. Now there are a few gripes on these characters. Manny’s personality could be more dimensional. For the most screen time, there’s still something missing from his character arc. He is blindly in love with Nelly from the start, but we don’t win him over very much. More scenes between the two at the beginning of the movie would have made for more drama for the tragic ending.
As for Nelly played by Margot Robbie, she does an amazing job, as always! the problem? Robbie is constantly playing the same characters over and over. A girl from New Jersey has anger issues and is a little (or a lot) crazy. Sound like anyone played before? Cough, cough: is there anyone?
Brad Pitt’s personality was lackluster. Some of his scenes were great additions to show the actual influences on big-name stars between silence and speech, but as long as this movie lasts, we don’t get into Conrad’s mind. So why does his arc end the way it does? Yes, his career is over, so it’s easy to make that connection, but seeing Conrad’s emotional and physical breakdown would make his ending very shattering.
I wish we had more Sydney Palmer (Jovan Adepo). I felt Chazelle addressed his character at the last minute of the movie. Li Jun Li as Anna May Wong was a killer on screen, and like Jovan Adepo, we just can’t get enough of her character. These two actors are POC actors – dare I say, are these characters here just to please the audience?
Babylon It is a movie for movie buffs. Meaning, if you watched this movie, you must be familiar with the mechanics of the movie making process. As of 2022, the way movies are made is strict, but nothing like the past. Everything was brand new, first sound, first time in color, first movie stars, first drama queens, so there was room for failure because nothing could compare except for live theatre. The world saw movies and theater in different worlds because of the lack of formality behind the craze of the 1920s.
What elevated Chazelle’s vision was the ending. Mane went to the cinema in the fifties. His world flashes before his eyes as the film industry begins to recycle and recycle, and yet the technical ingenuity behind filmmaking has multiplied. Everything is magically connected together. The films are artistic – visually – musical – and soundly made. And as the world changes, so does the industry. Of course, there will always be Jack Conrad and Nellie LaRue, because they look like actors from the past to the present. Now, this world is infused with fame from all of social media and reality TV. But one thing remains the same – movies never die.
Babylon Gaining notoriety simply for its frantic and overexploitative aspects, critics and viewers missed the film’s themes. Renewal and rapid changes. From start to finish, Babylon is an ongoing craze, and it’s a pure reflection of how quickly movies have changed over time. It’s only been less than a hundred years since phone calls became the norm, and now look where we are.
To top off these intensely intense sequences with Margot stealing every shot with her exceptional skills would be a crime! Babylon It is a funny historical story that every movie fan will enjoy.
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