Babylon – Movie Review

I’ve posted some movie reviews in the past on Rotten Tomatoes and Facebook. But they tend to get lost in the shuffle of everything else I post on Facebook and attempting to log into Rotten Tomatoes today revealed that all my reviews are gone for some reason. Not that there was more than maybe a handful, but still, that’s disappointing. So I decided I’m just going to post them here on my website instead and link people to them from Facebook or elsewhere. That said, here is my review of the film Babylon, which I just finished last night (Saturday) and which took me a couple nights to watch. I believe I started it Wednesday or Thursday with my girlfriend, although she bailed after that first night and decided not to finish it.

With a title like Babylon and a story about 1920s Hollywood, you know going in that this is a film is about extravagant overabundant sinfulness. But when it comes to these things, there is a balance that needs to be struck between the grotesque and the everyday. Some films of this nature are completely off balance, Babylon is not. At least not entirely. The scales are certainly leaning in favor of the grotesque. A good sixty to sixty-five percent I would argue. But there is still enough of the everyday where I’m not completely turned off by the film. I don’t hate the characters or just find no connection with any of them like some of these types of films. In fact the opposite is true. Brad Pitt’s character is straight up likable. Diego Calva’s character is compassionate and concerned. As a viewer there is even a degree of empathy for the tragic mania of Margot Robbie’s character. Likely as a result of a mental illness that is never identified. An illness that both shoots her out of the cannon up to the stars, but not on a trajectory toward the safety net as she inevitably comes down.

This is the second film in the last decade about the 1920s that attempts to show the era in an extremely stylized way. The other being The Great Gatsby by Baz Luhrman. In both cases, as a viewer I’m left wondering how accurate that really is. It feels inaccurate. Like they turned the volume up far past ten. Which for a Baz Luhrman film is expected. But then when you see it again with a film like Babylon, you start to wonder. I don’t really know. I didn’t attend swanky 1920s parties. I don’t really know how swinging and debaucherous they really were.  

This is one of those movies that I’m disgusted by and I want to walk away saying “ew, no thanks.” And I’ve seen plenty of films like this that are all shock and I’m left feeling hollow and miserable and depressed and wonder why I wasted such precious little time I have in my life on something that makes me feel bad in a bad way. While this film teeters on that, there are enough redeeming moments and all out great scenes (Brad Pitt’s character and the film critic) that make me glad I watched it. Even the scenes I don’t like, I have to recognize were done well enough to make me feel uncomfortable and that was their job. So good on them in that sense. Even if I don’t care to revisit them.

This is probably one of those one and done movies for me. Not a film I’m likely to rewatch. At least in its entirety. But I am glad I did see it at least once.

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