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Babylon (2022) Review

This is a review for the 2022 movie “Babylon”. Babylon is big. It’s a lot of things, but big feels the most appropriate. It’s Damien Chazelle’s fifth feature film as a director and second tackling Hollywood, the first being 2016’s La La Land. Already touted as a box office failure, is Babylon a flop or a misunderstood gem?

What is Babylon about?

That’s the question of the hour, really. I wasn’t too sure what to expect going in, beyond it being a movie about Hollywood and parties. I’m still not entirely how to describe it afterwards.

It’s a long movie which follows a small ensemble through Hollywood’s transition from silent film to “talkies”. We watch as these careers prosper, peak and ultimately come undone in various different ways. There are the typical archetypes – Margot Robbie wants to be a star, Diego Calva wants to be a big-time producer and Brad Pitt is a big shot who wants progress to march forward.

Over the course of the three hour epic: there are gunfights in cavern corridors, secret lesbian love affairs, hilarious set-pieces and lots of drugs, sex and parties. The movie is a celebration of cinema and a middle finger to Hollywood.

The flop.

It would be wrong to talk about this movie without first acknowledging that it is, arguably, one of the least successful movies ever. Deadline estimated that the movie would need to make $250 million at the Box Office to break even. Given that it made roughly 10% of this domestically, it’s clear that’s not going to happen.

Therefore, the critics are circling in the water – eager to announce Chazelle’s first failure. The narrative forming states that he was given too much control and needed to be reigned in more by the studio. That is complete nonsense. In what world has studio meddling ever produced a better movie? Chazelle did his job, he made a magnificent spectacle that told the story he wanted to tell. If the studios stupidly bet big on a 3 hour movie on Hollywood in the 1920s doing well at the box office, more fool them.

You can definitely see where the budget went. Every set-piece seems so intricately designed, there’s so much going on the background of each shot. Now multiply that by three hours.

Why did Babylon flop?

Babylon fell apart because it is an impossible movie to market. The marketing for this movie focused intensely on the partying and the good times, which I think soured a lot of people as nobody really wants to sit through another Hollywood “pats itself on the back” flick in the year 2023. Yet, what other choice did they have? It would’ve been very strange if the trailers had focused on the last hour of this marathon. There’s so much going on in this movie that it’s near impossible to condense it down into a nice trailer.

It would be naïve to blame the marketing team. This issue should have been spotted by the big guys in the studio before handing out so much money to a movie that was never going to return that investment.

Is Margot Robbie a movie star?

Perhaps the most annoying discourse that this movie has generated is the idea that Margot Robbie isn’t a movie star. This argument has arose due to her recent movies underperforming in the box office. It remains a mystery why David O Russell’s “Amsterdam” and “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” flopped at the Box Office.

I do not understand how anyone can watch Babylon and walk away with the conclusion that Margot Robbie is not a star. This movie could have made $5 at the Box Office and she would still be a star. She commands every scene that she’s in and captures every possible emotion in her performance.

Additionally, she’s the face of what is inevitably going to be one of the biggest movies of 2023 – “Barbie”. The public love seeing people fail and Robbie is the latest victim of that craving. She’ll be fine.

Is Babylon a good movie?

Ignoring the wider context of the film, the question remains: is Babylon worth your time?

Babylon is a beautiful movie, as previously described – the scenes are rich with detail and life. I have a poor attention span with films and was worried about the length becoming an issue, especially given the topic of Hollywood wasn’t something I had initially found engaging. However, there is such a variety of engaging content present within, that it was difficult to be bored. The jokes landed effectively, the drama was engaging and despite initial reservations, there was no pretentiousness on display.

Every actor was absolutely killing it. Margot Robbie was the star of the show, but the entire cast and supporting cast put in equally killer performances. My favourite scene was Robbie’s first performance in a scene with sound. The scene was hilarious and effectively conveyed the stress of the situation.

Will Babylon be nominated for Best Picture?

At the time of writing, Oscar nominations are set to be announced next week. Babylon is considered a potential contender for Best Picture. It’s definitely in my list of borderline contenders, though the failure at the box office will likely put off some of the academy from showing it some love. Hopefully, this spectacle will be rewarded in other areas.

Who should watch Babylon?

If you enjoy stories about Hollywood, you’ll love Babylon. If you don’t, but are willing to commit three hours to a fun piece of art, then I would highly recommend it. It’s a difficult film to classify but it’s objectively a well put together piece of cinema. If anything written here has slightly interested you, it’s almost definitely worth a shot!

This was my review for Babylon (2022). Did you enjoy Babylon? Let us know in the comments below!

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