D: Damien Chazelle

Paramount / C2 / Organism / Wild Chickens (Marc Platt, Matthew Piouffe & Olivia Hamilton)

US 🇺🇸 2022

189 mins


W: Damien Chazelle

DP: Linus Sandgren

Ed: Tom Cross

Mus: Justin Hurwitz

PD: Florencia Martin

Cos: Mary Zophres

Margot Robbie (Nellie LaRoy), Diego Calva (Manny Torres), Brad Pitt (Jack Conrad), Jovan Adepo (Sidney Palmer), Jean Smart (Elinor St. John), Li Jun Li (Lady Fay Zhu), P.J. Byrne (Max)

Damien Chazelle’s meandering pastiche of the debauchery & overindulgent excess of early Hollywood as it transitions from silent film into the sound era is most certainly going to split audiences between those who find it frenetically-expressed art and those who find it a complete mess.

Personally, I think it straddles the line of both, as the ambition of the writer-director is definitely there, but the visual style, evocative of Baz Luhrmann’s work, just isn’t for everyone, myself included.

Clearly inspired by 1952’s Singin’ In The Rain, the plot follows four main characters at certain points of their careers in 1920’s Hollywood.  Margot Robbie is effectively the lead, as Nellie LaRoy, an up-and-coming ingenue who gets her big break due to her no-filter language and in-your-face attitude that California’s high society deem vulgar.  Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt) in contrast is on the opposite trajectory, as an alcoholic screen legend whose star is fading.  Bridging between them both is Manuel ‘Manny’ Torres, who is simply a man who wants to work in showbiz and move his way up the ladder to become a director.  The fourth principal character is jazz musician, Sidney Palmer, who faces his own obstacles due to the colour of his skin.

There are some interesting scenes as the movie plays out, but what could have been a solid, entertaining two hour movie is stretched beyond its means, culminating in an explosion of iconic cinema scenes from other movies that feels completely out of place and rather pretentious.

The performances are all fine, and the film looks amazing from a production standpoint, but the direction, editing and story really is a bit of a mess, even if it is a beautiful mess.


Margot Robbie in Babylon
Margot Robbie in Babylon