What’s it about?
Babylon charts the rampant excesses of early Hollywood, and the rise and fall of multiple characters across the end of the silent film era and the emergence of talkies.
What’d we think?
Peter Linning says: Babylon is the best and worst of Hollywood excess in both subject matter and presentation. The first hour or so of Babylon is a spectacular whirlwind, but just like the Hollywood machine that it’s so sumptuously indicting, the whirlwind isn’t sustainable. The opening party sequence is guaranteed a place in the Movie Party hall of fame, and the scenes portraying the barely-controlled chaos of a film set are some of the most entertaining cinema experiences I’ve had in ages, but the sprawling back half of the movie burns through all of the goodwill it had established early on.
There’s some brilliant filmmaking going on here, but without a cohesive narrative to hold a movie this ambitious together, it just feels like there’s far too much of it. I’d be a passionate advocate of this film if it had been trimmed down, but at a runtime of over 3 hours, I can’t bring myself to endorse it. Years from now it’ll be ripe for critical re-evaluation, but for now you’re better off spending those 3 hours at home watching Heat on Blu-Ray.
Geena Schwartz says: Like that wild fling that you met once at a party, Babylon is one of the best (and worst) nights of your life, and then never heard from again. Sure it wasn’t the greatest relationship you’ve ever had (the movie was 3 hours long), you were a little lost and unsure at times, but damn you can’t deny that you had fun.
The first 30 minutes immerse you in a world you can only dream of experiencing once in your life. A film of spectacular and vibrant characters. Vivid imagery – thank you Damien Chazelle. Interspersed with a sensorial score – thank you Justin Hurwitz. Yet, no tangible cohesion. They had us, they nearly lost us, then pulled us in right at the end, just. Regardless, it’s had me thinking ever since, so they’re doing something right.