In defence of Babylon, the wildest film you could ever hope to see at the cinema
Everyone who hated this stupid little masterpiece hates fun
I cannot lie to you and say I was excited for Babylon. When someone comes to you and tell you they’ve got a film that’s three hours in length for you to watch, you are lying if you say your natural response is not “Oh, for fuck’s sake.” I am a firm believer that stories should be told in an hour and a half or two hours max, and funnily enough Babylon has about enough plot to finish in 20 minutes. I saw the mixed reviews, sat down in the cinema buckled up for a sluggish three hours and left the screening grinning from ear to ear and feeling like time flew by faster than it had any right to. I loved it so much, I could have had a fourth hour. And whilst I note the criticism Damien Chazelle’s messy epic has garnered, I write this as my defence piece of Babylon – the wildest, stupidest, most fun time you could ever hope to have at the cinema.
What’s it actually about?
Good question! My answer? WHO CARES!
In all seriousness, Babylon is about the rise and fall of several characters in the film industry in the late 1920s, as cinema moves from silent movies into talkies. Margot Robbie plays Nellie LaRoy, a wild star on the rise, Brad Pitt is Jack Conrad – a famous movie star struggling to maintain his success, and Diego Calva plays Manny Torres, a jack of all trades desperate to get into the film biz and become a big producer.
But honestly, don’t worry about any of that. This is not a film to faff around over the fine details, this is a film to shut off to and just let your eyes boggle at the spectacle. This is actually quite rogue coming out of my mouth, the man who said not two weeks ago that I think scripts are the most important thing in film and I’d rather watch two people sit in an empty room having a great conversation than watch a Marvel movie – but Babylon singlehandedly makes me wish death on minimalism, and celebrate maximalism at the finest and highest degree possible.
It’s literally just three hours of absolute carnage
Babylon opens with an elephant shitting in a man’s face, and that’s probably the tamest thing that happens in the whole film. It does not let you have a moment’s peace, so if you’ve got a headache, leave the film alone til you’re in the mood. Treat going to see Babylon as like a night out on the heaviest drugs you can find with the loudest DJ your friends could muster you to go to, and you’ll roughly know what you’re in for.
Snake bites, vats of cocaine, a dungeon that takes the film down a Barbarian-esque route, sweat, sex, live rat eating, fires, death, gore – it’s all here, it’s all the time, it’s unrelenting. And I’m sorry, I loved it. I left the cinema grinning like a crazy person, thinking about how stupid I was to roll my eyes at the three hour runtime. You know how time flies by on nights out and you can’t work out how it’s 5AM? Welcome to Babylon, baby.
Literally every criticism of this film is valid, and yet I still do not care
Babylon has polarised critics, and I’m not surprised. I could not wait to hear Mark Kermode’s verdict, he’s my favourite film writer and I laughed a lot knowing that he hated it. He dragged it senseless, actually – saying on his podcast with Simon Mayo “It’s just like getting yelled at for three hours. It’s an incredibly ill disciplined movie, and it may be between the bacchanalian debauch of it there are some interesting ideas about how the film industry changed during that period. The film imagines itself to be so much more chaotic and enthralling than it is.
“It’s exhausting, the problem with it is it isn’t entertainingly exhausting.” I agree with Mark on almost every word, Chazelle is completely chaotic and undisciplined in his filmmaking here – but there’s one major error in Kermode’s stance: Babylon is outrageously entertaining. Sorry!
If you watch this film and don’t have a good time, I think the issue is not Babylon – but your own personal disgust at the humble, primal art of having fun. And that’s all there is too it!
No it should not be winning any Best Picture awards, and it’s probably one of the most lavish wastes of money I’ve ever seen on screen but my GOD is it a blast! Go with a friend, get the biggest popcorn possible and laugh your way through total carnage. You’ll thank me for it, and if you don’t you’re boring. Hellooooo, college!
Babylon is showing in cinemas now. For all the latest film and Netflix news, drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook.
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