Babylon Movie Review: Is ‘La La Land’ Successor Worth A Watch?

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Babylon Movie Review
Babylon Movie Review starring Margot Robbie and Diego Calva (Credits: Glamour UK)

Babylon is an American historic period dark comedy-drama directed and written by Damien Chazelle. It narrated the story of the period in Hollywood when there were only silent films. It covers the ups and downs faced by famous personalities during Hollywood’s late 1920s transition from silent to the sound cinema in its raw reality.

The film earned many nominations and awards, such as the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Production Design, Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, and many more.

Babylon was released on 23 December in the United States and featured various stars such as Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo, Li Jun Li, and many more. This film is also called the successor of “La La Land,” where Babylon is a reality check, and La La Land is more of an optimistic view.

  • Movie name – Babylon
  • Directed by – Damien Chazelle
  • Produced by – Marc Platt, Matthew Plouffe, and Olivia Hamilton
  • Release date – 23 December 2022 (USA)
  • Box Office collection – 5.64 Crore USD
  • Run time – 3hr 9 min
  • Where to watch – Amazon Prime

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Babylon Cast

Babylon is a dark comedy-drama film directed by Damien Chazelle, which features a variety of stars and how they deal with the ups and downs while transitioning from silent to sound cinema. The film highlights Margot Robbie as Nellie LaRoy, Brad Pitt as Jack Conrad, Diego Calva as Manny Torres, Tobey Maguire as James McKay, and Jean Smart as Elinor St John.

The supporting cast also includes Olivia Wilde as Ina Conrad (Jack’s ex-wife),  Katherine Waterson as Estelle Conrad (Jack’s third wife), Li Jun Li as Lady Fay Zhu (a lesbian singer), Flea as Bob Levine, Max Minghella as Irving Thalberg, Jovan Adepo as Sidney Palmer, Olivia Hamilton as Ruth, P. J. Byrne as Ruth’s AD, and a lot many more.  

Babylon Cast
Babylon Cast (Credits: Daily Express)

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Babylon Plot

The movie started in 1926, when an immigrant named Manuel Torres (Manny) helped in transporting an elephant to a dissolute party, also called bacchanal (a festival), at a mansion. There we see Nellie LaRoy, who is a self-proclaimed star, and how Manny gets attracted to her.

While they are snorting drugs, Manny tells her how much he likes cinema and wants to be a part of it. After this, we see Manny being called and informed that Jane Thornton, a young actress, has collapsed due to a drug overdose and must be carried out of the mansion without anybody knowing. Now, they spot Nelle dancing brilliantly and quickly decide to replace Jane with her. 

After this, Manny is ordered to drop drunk Jack Conrad at his home, and while with him, he becomes friends with him, and later he hires him as his assistant. This excites Manny now. Finally, he can enter the industry. After a while, Nellie does great work and becomes famous in a short time.

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Later, we can see a shift from silent to sound films, and it caused a lot many problems because people are still new to it, and the process isn’t easy. Nellie also gets frustrated as she struggles with fulfilling sound navigation demands. This causes Nellie to increase her destructing behavior, such as gambling and drug addiction which eventually spoils her image. 

Later, Jack Conrad sends Manny to go the screening of the sound film that is going to release and reports it to him. When he reaches, he sees Nellie and then takes him to a psychiatric hospital where we can see that her mother is mentally ill.

She tells him about how her past and how she was always bullied and outcasted in her community in New York. Manny also tells her how he has run away from his family, who is just 30 min drive away, and that he is living here just to fulfill his dreams.

Later, at the party, all the stars are there, and Lady Fay Zhu chooses Nellie for dancing; after this, while in the washroom, she overhears people talking meanly about her and her father and how her fame is going to decline. After coming out of the washroom, she challenges her father to fight a rattlesnake, and everyone goes to see this fight in a deserted place.

Nellie’s dad passes out as he is drunk, and then she challenges anybody to fight this snake, but nobody comes, so she goes by herself. Nellie gets bitten by the snake on the neck, and later Lady Fay Zhu comes and sucks out the venom. After gaining consciousness, Nellie kisses Lady Fay Zhu passionately.

Nellie getting out of the theatre after her first movie "The Wild Child"
Nellie’s stardom (Credits: Numero Magazine)

By 1932, Jack begins to realize that his popularity is fading but still works in low-budget films, whereas Sidney has got his own musical film and orchestra. Gradually, Hollywood becomes less lustful, and Manny becomes a director. Later, after reading articles about the assumed affair between Fay and Nellie, executives advise Manny to fire Fay, as she is causing hindrance in Nellie’s stardom.

He fires her and tells her that her titles are not needed now and that she should leave. Meanwhile, we see Jack, who is practicing lines with his new wife, Estelle. Jack gets a phone call and is told that his best friend, George, is no more. He breaks down and tells his wife how George was the first who saw his talent and also how he saved Jack’s life.

Manny and Elinor try to save Nellie’s image and involve her with Hollywood’s high society. Nellie tries really hard to fit in among them but is unable to. She goes to the powder room, and then Manny comes and asks her if they do not even like her.

Manny tells her they do like her and that she will be fine. Nellie gets annoyed and lashes out against the upper-class people. Meanwhile, Jack finds Elinor’s cover story about his popularity fading, and he decides to confront her.

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She comforts them and tells him that whatever happens but he will be immortalized in the cinema. Later Sidney gets offended when the executives convince Manny that Sidney should use makeup to darken his skin so that he can look relevant to the Southern audience. After this, Sidney leaves Kinoscope.

On the other side, Nellie’s life gets threatened by a gangster named James McKay because of her gambling debts. Nellie asks Manny for his help, and he eventually agrees. He gets funds from an actor and goes to James to pay the debts.

Manny gets stressed when he gets to know that the money is fake. James invites them to a secret place for a party and eventually discovers that the money is fake; then tries to kill Manny and Nellie, but they escape and kill his assistant Wilson. 

Nellie and Manny together
Nellie and Manny together (Credits: The Mercury News)

During a party, Fay tells Jack that she is leaving for Europe, and then later, he goes back to the hotel room and shoots himself in the head as he gets devastated by whatever is happening in his life. Simultaneously, Manny asks Nellie to leave this place and fly with him to Mexico, where they will marry and start a new life together.

She initially denies it but eventually agrees to go with him. However, James’s henchmen find Manny and also kill The Count and his roommate, who gave funds to Manny. James spares Manny on one condition that he will leave Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Nellie breaks her promise of going away with him and dances away into the darkness. Later, we see a montage displaying the newspaper clippings of Nellie’s death at the age of 34 in the hotel room and Elinor’s death at the age of 76.

The scene shifts to 1952, when Manny has a well-established radio shop in New York City. He comes back to California with his wife, Silvia, and his little daughter. He shows them the Kinoscope Studios entrance and goes to a nearby cinema alone to see Singin’ in the Rain, which is the film’s representation of the cinema’s shift from silent to sound movies. Seeing this, he gets tears in his eyes, and lastly, he smiles at the end of the film. 

Babylon Review

Babylon is a cinematic masterpiece, and it can be clearly seen that Damien Chazelle has put his soul and heart into the movie. Initially, by seeing the time of the movie, I thought three hours was way too much for a movie in today’s time.

But when you start to see the movie, you just can’t take your eyes off the screen, and the movie is epic and a bit long but enjoyable in its own way. The three hours fly by with seeing the wonderful performances and the cinematography. Even if you miss out few things, you’ll still be interested. The music by Justin Hurwitz is literally amazing.

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Babylon shows the dark and raw reality of early Hollywood and how actors faced ups and downs with staying relevant during the changing times from silent to sound pictures. This movie was chaotic in style but still had a lot to say, and we were able to connect to the characters and their feelings.

We can see genuine chemistry between Margot Robbie (Nellie) and Diego Calva (Manny) and how Manny was so caring and passionate about her. It really felt bad that the audience couldn’t see them together at the end.

Speaking of Nellie’s character, she is a proclaimed star, and even though her past is not shown a lot, we can still see how broken she is. She had a really rough childhood; her relationship with her father is not fine, and her mother is in a psychiatric institution.

She was always criticized and bullied by the people of her community and always used to seek validation from people around her. She never felt valued and thought that fame would give her some kind of value. And got engaged in self-destructing behavior when the critics weren’t generous.

Jack, played by Brad Pitt, is an amazing character. We can see how unstable his relationships are and how he broke when he heard the news of his friend George’s death. He was a superstar of the silent film era, and when he sensed that his stardom was fading while transitioning from silent to sound films, he couldn’t accept reality and lived in denial until, one day, he shot himself.

Manny was a passionate person and thought a lot for Nellie, he wanted to marry and live with her, but Nellie always considered herself to be not good for him. Manny denied everything and told her how good she was.

They planned to fly to Mexico, but later Nellie understood that James would eventually find her and that she would unwillingly drag Manny also in this, so she decided to leave him and disappear. Later, we get to know that she died. She couldn’t accept the reality and died eventually.

Babylon shows the struggle of actors of early Hollywood and how people get through them. Developments are always going to be there, and one day somebody will have YOUR place, and you need to accept the reality. Characters like Nellie and Jack died as they couldn’t accept the reality. On the other hand, characters like Fay and Sidney Palmer accepted and moved on in their lives. 

Our Verdict

Everyone on and behind the screen did an amazing job. The movie might feel a bit long, but it feels really worth the time. Babylon is phenomenal, and this movie is worth watching once.

Our Rating: ⭐ (4.5/5)

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By Priyanka Pawar

Priyanka is an enthusiast who loves to explore and learn new things. She's curious about everything and isn't afraid to try new things, even if they're a little bit scary. She's been told that she has a "can-do" attitude, which is great because she never stops.

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