Babylon: Miss or must-see?


Photo from The Scottsman.

Babylon is a show-stopping, star-studded, extravagant film. Starring movie stars like Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt and Tobey Maguire, not to mention certain unexpected characters.
But I’ll get to that later.
The movie begins in the Roaring Twenties, with an ostentatious, practically rancid party that comes off as a deranged fever dream, and evolves into an arc illustrating the differences between the Twenties and the more sedate, proper Thirties and how each character handles the transition. The wild rager continues to introduce our three main character and plot points: Nellie LaRoy, a party girl and hopeful actress as wild and crazy as she is ambitious; Jack Conrad, movie superstar and famous womanizer; and Manny Torres, aspiring filmmaker and movie director, hopelessly in love with It-Girl Nellie. It explores their rise in the film industry and their evident fall with the coming of the 30s and a less salacious, rowdy celebrity class coming into play that ultimately destroys each of them.
The first two thirds of the movie are incredible, really. The cinematography is absolutely mesmerizing, and completely encompasses the craziness of the Roaring Twenties. The opening scene, in particular, a whirl of debauchery and excitement, deserves special praise for its incredible scenery and camerawork.
The acting is breathtaking. Margot Robbie is the perfect actress for her role: she pulls you so deep into the scenes that you feel like a part of the movie. She takes her assigned role to a new level, and performs such a haunted, wild, self-destructive woman beautifully. Her alluring character has intriguing relationships with each of the others, and she makes the on-screen chemistry practically feasible. Manny Torres does a stellar job of playing an ambitious, lovesick, slightly awkward role, and is so good at instilling empathy within the audience during his inevitable character arc into the type of villain he once reviled. Brad Pitt’s character was decent, as well, just not quite living up to the sky-high standard of the other two, which may be explained away by the character’s relative shallowness.
Imagine my horror, after a shocking introduction to an repulsive Devil-like Tobey Maguire, the cinematography takes a dark turn and everything goes bottoms up. Quite literally, as Manny and his partner enter what is only known as the “a**hole of Los Angeles.” The first room they enter looks to be just a regular fight club, but as you look beyond the fighting, you notice the eerie music playing and the tormented people present. I went into fight-or-flight right then and there. When they descend a level, your suspicions are confirmed with a freak show of sorts, filled with disfigured, tormented souls that patrons pay to degrade, demonic half-men half-animals, chained up and holding the most soul-sucking bleak stares, almost like they’ve been chained longer than the audience will ever know. There is something about the scene that is wrong beyond any level, almost as if Tobey Maguire’s rat-like, yellow toothed, red-eyed character is Satan himself taking you on your trip to become one of his punished souls.
The demented museum exhibit takes a turn for the worse in the form of one last exhibit, quite literally the most viscerally disgusting scene I’ve ever witnessed, rated-R movie or otherwise. What seems to be a normal shady underground rager flips on its head when the main attraction is revealed to be a man. A man biting the heads off of and devouring live rats, in the most revolting, unnecessary scene possible. If I had left my eyes closed for as long as I had wanted to after this scene, I wouldn’t have been able to write this review. Unfortunately, I opened my eyes and lived in shock for the next 10-20 minutes of conclusion, only to almost have a seizure at the fanatic flashing of the screen from the movie’s ending montage that seemed like some grandstanding, wild grasp at being metaphorical.
This movie was a wild ride from start to finish. While the camera-work and the acting are incredible, the graphic quality of the climax of the movie left the audience lacking their lunches. I would personally recommend this movie to those with a strong stomach or the inclination to leave an hour or two in.