The decedent era of 1920s Hollywood is captured in extreme detail in the
the new film “Babylon” by Writer/Director Damien Chazelle.
The movie follows aspiring star Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie), who crashes
a party and meets assistant Manny Torres (Diego Calva), who has dreams of
working in film. From a drug, sex, and debauchery-laden party the two form
a bond that over the next few years sees them weave in, out, and around
each other as their various fortunes change.
Into the mix is actor Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), who sees something in Manny
and gets him on a film set where his quick decision saves the day and
paves the way for greater things. At the same time, Nellie is given her
shot and makes the most of it quickly becoming a major star.
Naturally, the excess and pressure of the industry take a toll as Nellie is
into gambling and partying and Jack goes from one marriage to another as
he strives to keep his star status.
The arrival of talking movies is a huge opportunity and a disruption as
Nellie’s voice is not suited for audio and the pressure of having to have
a completely silent set wears thin on those around them.
Manny works his way up the ladder and finds himself working with musician
Sidney Palmer (Jovan Adepo) whose music and race allow the studio to
capture the “ethnic” market but this also leads to issues that forces the
characters to go to extreme depths for their work.
This setup along with a great soundtrack has all the winning elements but
the film sadly runs long as some stories are abandoned while the film goes
on extended tangents about other characters or situations that become
overly long and self-indulgent. This makes for a there-hour plus movie
that should have been a tighter two or two-and-a-half-hour film and it
often goes to the extreme in showing graphic grossness to the point where
it is clear what is going on and we do not need an extended close-up.
As stated the music and performances are great but the film kept going to
the point where I kept wondering when the film would ever end. “Babylon”
is a good two-hour film about the allure and dangers of stardom and the
changes in the film industry and the toll it took on people. However, the
extended length does ruin what could have and should have been a tighter
4 stars out of 5