BABYLON Review — An Assault on the Soul of Cinema
Lisa Johnson Mandell’s extremely negative Babylon review says a few standout performances are not enough to redeem the film from three hours of tasteless implosion.
Just in time for the holidays! A relentless barrage of defecation, urination, regurgitation, ejaculation, fornication, asphyxiation, masturbation, exploitation, humiliation and overstimulation.
Writer, director, composer Damien Chazelle has attempted to show us a titillating tale of Hollywood debauchery and corruption as cinema evolves from silent pictures to talkies, and the human detritus left in its inexorable wake.
It’s a tale that has been told (far better) hundreds of times before, but perhaps not so garishly. Think Sunset Boulevard meets Caligula (Thank you, Aaron Kai, for that image). It begins with a literal elephant shit storm, and ends with a smarmy montage of clips from many of the films Chazelle “borrowed” from.
And to make Babylon even more grating, the majority of the film is underscored by a redundant and overly simplistic Chazelle signature theme that sounds like a LaLa Land reject. As a composer, Chazelle ranks right up there with Clint Eastwood.
Now for all its faults, there are some exceptional performances. Unfortunately, Margot Robbie’s is not among them. But it’s not the fault of this gifted actress. Her part was written as one note that never varies. She is bold, she is brassy, she is sleazy, shallow, incorrigible and completely without morals. In the greatest stories, characters change. In this one, she remains annoyingly the same from start to finish.
You can’t help but wonder what Manny Torres (Diego Calva), the resourceful production assistant who becomes a powerful studio exec, sees in her. Now there’s a performance—Calva is sublime, even outperforming Brad Pitt, who does some excellent work as Jack Conrad, an A-list actor who has a hard time keeping up with the times.
Jean Smart, as Elinor St. John, a cliched Hollywood gossip columnist, is a standout as well. Her brief but razor sharp performance is likely the best of the bunch.
But those highlights do not excuse or justify this bag of tarantulas film. I’m amazed it ever got a green light, let alone critical kudos. It’s an elaborate manifestation of Hollywood’s gross and bottomless self-obsession. See it at your own peril.
3 Hours 8 Minutes
If, after reading this negative Babylon review, you’re still inclined to see it, get times and tickets at Fandango.com.
Lisa Johnson Mandell’s extremely negative Babylon review says a few standout performances are not enough to redeem the film from its three hours of tasteless implosion.
OMG, the *perfect* review! You summed up my thoughts perfectly.