HomeHairstyleIn ‘Babylon’, Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt make a hell of a Hollywood story
In ‘Babylon’, Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt make a hell of a Hollywood story
December 20, 2022
“Babylon” begins with an elephant first spraying feces at all the working-class men trying to save him from falling off a cliff, then at the camera lens itself. That’s perfect, because “Babylon” is a hulking beast gliding through hairpin turns and bombarding its audience with all manner of bodily fluids.
Metaphorically, of course.
The oversized, coked-up film follows two upstarts – savage actress Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie) and ambitious gofer Manny Torres (Diego Calva) – as they climb (or perhaps descend) to the pinnacle of life. gold of Hollywood. As new stars rise, old ones, like Valentino’s idol Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), struggle to find their place in unfamiliar constellations.
Let’s unbox writer-director Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon,” a dirty, funny, and frenetic flick that might be the weirdest release of the holiday season in recent memory.
“Babylon” has fun with a familiar story.
Chazelle has built an Oscar-nominated career reinterpreting Americana, from the Technicolor musical in “La La Land” to the moon landing in “First Man.” Now he’s taking Emma Stone’s bullet-step dancing in an observatory to a wilder west: the very birth of Hollywood.
Specifically, “Babylon” traces the heyday of silent footage as it transforms into the brave new world of walkie-talkies. And yes, it is well trodden ground, which the film knows. The title evokes “Hollywood Babylon”, the 1959 book by Kenneth Anger that printed some of the most salacious gossip on the film set. The most obvious touchstone is “Singin’ In the Rain,” of course. “Babylon” agrees, and saying more would be a bit of a spoiler.
You wouldn’t be crazy to think that a story exposing the seedy society that lurks beneath our most treasured escapades on the big screen has also been made particularly often in recent years.
I’ve watched all of Ryan Murphy’s revisionist fantasy miniseries “Hollywood,” which I should discuss with my therapist, and “Babylon” hits some of the same drums. Murphy’s show featured Samara Weaving, who also appears in “Babylon,” which is a fun joke, as she looks surprisingly similar to Robbie. Wait, I’m Not Done: Robbie, of course, helped cover Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood…’ Tarantino dialogues. And ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood…’ also starred Pitt as a lifelong ex-movie director, who he plays in ‘Babylon’ and –
You understood. Listen, “Babylon” is a lot like Taco Bell: same ingredients, just packaged in a different way and with a new name. But at least this metaphorical Crunchwrap Supreme is the best of its contemporary bunch.
Following:Hyperreal Film Club Hosts Austin’s Coolest, Weirdest Movie Night
Most of its three-hour, eight-minute runtime (pause for laughs) is Chazelle telling Tarantino to “stop punching yourself” as he does a bit of historical sightseeing. Chill at the chaos of several silent images filmed in a field and somehow turning into art! Lose your absolute mind laughing as Robbie’s Nellie LaRoy tries to get a single take on a new kind of soundstage! Inwardly shout “Jean Smart!” every time Jean Smart comes across as an analog of Hedda Hopper with an accent of undetermined origin!
Justin Hurwitz’s score turns your brain into a flapper, reflexively oscillating with the whirling dervish on screen. The scenes look lush; you could reach out and slip depravity through your fingers like velvet.
From a modern point of view, Chazelle tries to talk about race and sexuality through film, mostly through Lady Fay Zhu (Lil Jun Li), a character who is basically Anna May Wong with a tinge of Marlene Dietrich to boot. , and Sidney Palmer (Jovan Adepo), a jazz trumpeter who made a name for himself in big band pics marketed to black audiences. I said he tries – Lady Fay is a hoot but disappears for most of the series, and Sidney’s story feels grafted onto the movie in post. And a heartbreaking scene tackling the very real history of blackface in cinema perhaps overstates the need for a white director to hold such an image onscreen, close-up, for an excruciating extended take.
To hit Tarantino’s piñata once again: Chazelle structures “Babylon” in a way reminiscent of the elder director’s best impulses, and characters like Nellie and Manny pop in and out of tonal-varied storylines that span the Hollywood universe. . A bogus anthology, if you will. In its most “Pulp Fiction” form, Tobey Maguire (also a producer) pulls off the most shocking cameo of the year in a sequence more hellish and (almost) more hilarious than anything that came before it.
Margot Robbie is our 21st century “it girl”.
Every Hollywood story needs a moment of “discovery”. Nellie is drafted among the hoi polloi of a hillside bacchanalia like a warm body to replace an ingenue fallen into the depravity of the night. Then she grabs a bar and dances so intoxicatingly, tearing so easily, her stardom can’t be denied.
We’ve seen Robbie in this mode; Nellie is like Harley Quinn doing a reverse “Take On Me”. But Robbie’s cartoonish brass becomes blood and bone in “Babylon,” as she digs into her character’s desperation and delusion. There is always a touch of clowning around. A scene involving a rattlesnake is one of the funniest of the year.
A plus for the cinema that constantly cannibalizes itself by making movies about movies, though: you can sometimes see art spilling over into reality. Robbie is a household name, sure, but “Babylon” is the kind of muscle stretch actors can only hope for, geometric proof of their ability to be, well, a movie star.
That said, Robbie’s hair in this movie is inexplicable and I haven’t stopped thinking about it for days.
Imagine Lita Ford if she put her head in the dishwasher and dried it at 90 in a 65 with the top down.
Imagine labradoodle skin turned into lace.
Imagine bean sprouts.
The film’s hairstylist told Allure magazine that Chazelle wanted to avoid stylistic clichés (just), and that Nellie’s hair was inspired by Robert Plant. Mmm, yes, the famous starlet of the 1920s, Robert Plant.
Sometimes you should stop while you’re ahead.
When you thought, “God, does anything have to be longer than three hours?” (I’m in your head), “Babylon” seems determined to answer you. Maybe when a filmmaker covers so much ground, it’s hard to show restraint. Yet even those bodily fluids we’ve been talking about, crude as they are, are artistically effective — those fantasy worlds are built on nothing so brilliant.
Still, it’s disappointing to notice the clever little cinematic references throughout, and to see Chazelle end her mega-movie with a big neon arrow pointing at the screen, as if to say, “That was the point!” It also reveals the limitations of making movies about movies. Yes, cinema is magic. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t agree, right?
Again, it starts with an elephant taking a dump at the camera.
Following:Inside Austin’s Weird Lucy in Disguise World, Closing After 38 Years
If you go: ‘Babylon’
With : Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Diego Calva, Jean Smart
Director: Damien Chazelle
Note : R for graphic nudity, drug use, bloody violence, pervasive language, strong and rude sexual content