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Opening Date
19 Jan 2023
R21 Sexual Scenes
189 mins
English - subtitles to be advised
Comedy, Drama, History
Damien Chazelle
Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo, Li Jun Li, P.j. Byrne, Lukas Haas, Olivia Hamilton, Tobey Maguire, Max Minghella, Rory Scovel, Katherine Waterston, Flea, Jeff Garlin, Eric Roberts, Ethan Suplee, Samara Weaving, Olivia Wilde
From Damien Chazelle, Babylon is an original epic set in 1920s Los Angeles led by Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Diego Calva, with an ensemble cast including Jovan Adepo, Li Jun Li and Jean Smart. A tale of outsized ambition and outrageous excess, it traces the rise and fall of multiple characters during an era of unbridled decadence and depravity in early Hollywood.
By InCinemas  18 Jan 2023
A most dazzling love letter to cinema.
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Long before the success of Whiplash (2014) and La La Land (2019), writer-director Damien Chazelle had a concept for a film so grand, it took him years to process and grow it. More than a decade later, the concept is seen to fruition and Babylon is its name.

Set in the late 1920s of Hollywood, Babylon chronicles the rise and fall of multiple characters during the transition from silent to sound films, namely popular silent film star Jack Conrad, aspiring actress Nellie LaRoy, and Mexican-American film assistant Manny who aspires to have a larger role within the film industry. The epic period film stars an ensemble that includes Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo, and Li Jun Li.

A lot goes on in the film’s 189-minute runtime, it’s almost a dizzying whiplash experience charting characters' growth. At times, Babylon feels like a Frankenstein’s monster of a film, with many jagged puzzle pieces forced together to make sense. But thanks to its array of talented actors, it never quite matters if it doesn’t.

Robbie and Pitt fight for the spotlight with a bloated ensemble here but the light seems to favour the former most. Both actors are indubitably beautiful creatures working the floor with effortless charm but Robbie's effervescent performance as Nellie LaRoy is a clear standout amidst the madness. She is the main source of the chaos that breathes life into Babylon, the perfect counter to Calva’s more toned down Manny, the quiet soul of the film. 

It’s always fun to see an ensemble cast–even if it means some characters may suffer from stunted development due to lack of screentime (Smart’s Elinor deserved more)–especially when they bring more dimension to the piece. One of the more memorable instances is Adepo's poignant subplot as rising jazz trumpet player, Sidney Palmer. Specifically a pivotal moment in the character’s career when he encounters being asked to don blackface for a video shoot, sparking a conversation on the lengths one would go to just to achieve their dreams. 

Li’s time as Chinese-American cabaret singer Lady Fa Zhu is mostly spent as voice of reason to Pitt’s faltering Conrad but she embodies her character with grace and is fully in control of her own sex appeal despite it playing into the Asian stereotype of Old Hollywood. 

If you’ve seen the trailers then you’re probably looking out for Tobey Maguire but don’t hold your breath because he only appears much later in the film. You might have even forgotten he’s in it by the time he appears but forget him you will not after. Maguire is unhinged as maniacal mob boss James McKay, tapping into his own Cage era for a role that is unequivocally detached from anything he’s ever done. His scenes take a dive into the more horrific depths of the industry but you may be too disensitised by then to even realise. Ah, Hollywood.

A film of its magnitude is prone to shortcomings and while some moments scream beautiful mess, Chazelle manages to tie it all up in a pretty little bow, giving his characters their well-earned closure. Not everyone can come out the right end from the pressures of conforming to change and Chazelle makes damn sure his audience remembers that.

The weight of the film is not beared by its cast alone. As a matter of fact, much of Babylon relies on the look and feel put in place by the remarkable attention to detail on costume and set design. Longtime collaborator composer Justin Hurtwitz also rises to the challenge yet again by complimenting Chazelle’s vision with a jazzical score that perfectly encapsulates the highs and lows of the film.

Babylon tries its best at painting the discerning insight behind the makings of Hollywood. The trials and tribulations are an ugly sight to behold, a gripping contrast to the celebrated outcomes. Despite the harrow, Babylon ends on a beautiful high that will leave viewers feeling drunk on the magic of cinema. It is to film what Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous was for music way back in 2000. There’s no denying Chazelle’s latest work is a grand gesture of appreciation of cinema through the years. This open love letter is a film not to be missed.
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