Babylon: Talent Can Not Disguise Miscasting and Overindulgence


Paramount Pictures

Babylon (2022) unnecessarily cast many A-listers, but didn’t make up for the movie’s faults overall.

Jude Gorden and Sydney Smith

The first of many jumpscares in Babylon, a graphic cameo of an elephant spraying poop on its handler and the camera, perfectly described the rest of the movie: a sh*tshow.

Lasting an excruciating three hours and nine minutes, Babylon unsurprisingly flopped at the box office despite its impressive cast. This movie tried but failed to take modern-day viewers behind the scenes of early Hollywood. Although poorly executed, Babylon left viewers thinking long after they left the theater. But instead of contemplating the complex themes portrayed in the movie, watchers become distracted by graphic and seemingly irrelevant details that overpower the intended impact of the film.

After the opening scene, the movie cuts to a Gatsby-worthy party. Chaotically over-the-top with a heavy focus on drugs and sex, the scene served as an unworthy introduction to all the major characters. Any possible significance in the scene is lost in the confmusion it causes.

Margot Robbie, a movie superstar, played the unhinged character of Nellie LaRoy. Her experience in playing unpredictable characters like Harley Quinn made her a perfect pick for LaRoy: an up and coming actress in old Hollywood. Robbie masterfully portrays drug addiction, and her realistic portrayal of an addict’s struggles was Babylon’s saving grace.

But other than Robbie, the film featured multiple unnecessary castings of A-list celebrities. Big names were used to justify poor execution. Brad Pitt’s character, Jack Conrad, was set up to be a main focus of the movie, but was soon lost in the dust.

After helping to secure the protagonist, Manuel “Manny” Torres (Diego Calva) a job, Conrad became irrelevant and the expensive casting of Brad Pitt for this role made less and less sense. His final scene, in which he takes his own life, appeared to be placed in the movie as a shock factor, taking away any substance from the scene.

The film featured a revolutionary soundtrack, with songs reminiscent of Hollywood glitz and glamor. Sidney Palmer (Jovan Adepo), a Black trumpet player, carried the soundtrack. Babylon briefly featured Palmer’s character, yet his trumpet playing shone through in many of the main songs. Songs like “Red Devil” and “Call Me Manny” subtly supported scenes without taking focus away from the acting. While impressive, the majority of the scores were instrumental, which made the soundtrack rather underwhelming and understimulating.

A multitude of aesthetic shots aided in the movie’s striking cinematography. From parties with violently bright colors to close ups in the desert, every scene was beautifully set up with fitting backgrounds. One scene in particular, a gruesome dungeon scene, was made much worse by its dramatic color shifts and aggressive camera movement.

The film’s quality was tainted by an overcomplication of simple topics, and relied on the casting of recognizable actors rather than delivering a well-done story on the evolution of Hollywood.