Prepare yourself for a wild ride with the “wild child.” Outside of the very beginning, where you’re in the middle of a party, a circus, a strip club, orgy or a masquerade ball, (well, all of those at once), the three hour and nine-minute time the movie stretches out to be, won’t be felt. I say this because it isn’t necessary for the opening scene to be so long, even though it features an elephant, an animal I love very much. It’s a good scene, introducing essential characters, but enough already is what will run through your head. You’ll get to know those who are willing to drink themselves into a stupor and those who are more levelheaded.
It’s the 1920’s and Manny Torres (Calva) has dreams of working, in any capacity, in the Hollywood system. He gets to know Nellie LaRoy (Robbie), who’s in California, to do the same thing. They talk about their dreams and Manny, who proves he’s there on business, talks the bouncers into letting the two of them into a wild party of well-known guests.
There, they meet Jack Conrad (Pitt), who takes an interest in the pair. You will take a strong interest in them both, too. These characters are fascinating and the road they’re on couldn’t be more provocative.
For better or worse, the age of “the talkies” is about to take over Hollywood. LaRoy’s talent fits in nicely. Silent is going bye-bye and we see the issue this causes when someone’s voice doesn’t fit what the audience imagined it would. Another problem is that actors can look the part and move for the director, but they don’t necessarily sound the part when acting. Movement was all that was required before; now, they have to get the point across verbally, as well. That’s a different animal altogether, isn’t it?
Cinematographer Linus Sandgren’s (La La Land) work is stunning and unforgettable. So are Calva and Robbie, who steal any scene they’re in. Sets also bring you into a realm you couldn’t have imagined. With the length of the film, you are there, one hundred years ago, amongst the glitz and glamour, sitting with those trying to make it in the film business that was just emerging as the world in which to live. You want to be there. You could be involved if those at the top could control their grips on reality.
This film shows you that reality is both a beautiful point of view and a frightening approach.
If films are your thing, you’ll find this look into how things used to be most stimulating. Behind the scenes, shots of a film being made are hilarious and mind-blowing simultaneously. Pitt’s Jack Conrad, a combination of Rudolph Valentino and Douglas Fairbanks, is the big star everyone looks up to. Pitt couldn’t fit the role better. He loves the attention he gets and enjoys giving back. LaRoy ends up being the sweetheart, the leading lady and Torres ends up a studio executive. Where this leads is what makes the movie something everyone should watch this season. See it on the big screen if you can. To be honest, this is on my list of Best Pictures this year. Had another film not come out, “Babylon” could have snuck in as a possible winner.
Written and Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Starring: 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
Rated: R (Graphic Nudity|Drug Use|Bloody Violence|Pervasive Language|Strong & Crude Sexual Content)
Runtime: 3h 9m
Genres: Drama, Comedy
Produced by: Marc Platt, p.g.a., Matthew Plouffe, p.g.a., Olivia Hamilton, p.g.a.
Executive Produced by: Michael Beugg, Tobey Maguire, Wyck Godfrey, Helen Estabrook, Adam Siegel
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures