The Wild Ones
Stars: Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo, Li Ju Li, Tobey Maguire, Lukas Haas, Flea, Eric Roberts and Kaia Gerber
Director/Scriptwriter: Damien Chazelle
Composer: Justin Hurwitz
Cinematography: Linus Sandgren
C2 Motion Picture Group/Paramount Pictures
Rating: R for sensual scenes, language and themed material
Running Length: 190 Minutes (you read that right)
The film “Mank” of several years ago gave us a Hollywood in the days of Orson Welles and what happens behind the scenes with parties, deals and productions. Director/writer Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”) is back in his genre with a film depicting movie productions and does well in his story of how devastating Talkies was in Hollywood. To actually speak your dialogue instead of emoting silently. There is a chasm there and many could not find a way to cross over. How downgrading it is to hear your voice for the first time, come back at you and hear people; around you say, not “Who is that?” but “What is that?” In the film “Babylon,” we see both sides of the coin. The Hollywood before and the Hollywood after when having a good voice is a plus. The world is not kind here and there are several stories to tell. The time period goes from the middle Twenties to the early Fifties. “Babylon” refers to the Old Testament and how the city of Babylon was known for a wanton lifestyle.
The story begins with a main character, who stands on the sidelines, longing to be one of the big players. This is Manny (well played by Diego Calva) who comes from Mexico and wants to be in the film industry desperately. Talk about stars in your eyes. Going from lowly jobs, such as taking care of an elephant at a party to listening to starlets speak of that big break in films. Nellie (great job by Margot Robbie) is one such person, and though she and Manny become friends, Nellie goes wild on parties and trying for that big scene. A situation occurs with a young starlet and an overweight famous actor in the film, reminiscent of the Fatty Arbuckle scandal of years ago. Yes, Hollywood does have gossip columnists and one is Elinor St. John (think Hedda Hopper). Elinor is played by Jean Smart. Manny continues to move forward in the industry, going from being on sets to even some directing. Years pass, and it is the early 1930’s and Talkies come into play. Trying to make the transition is the famous actor Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt in a stunning role) Manny continues a friendship with Nellie, who is in and out of trouble with financial debts and a wild life style she can’t seem to overcome. The film ends in the early 1950’s and you would be surprised at who survives these past years in Babylon…and the music continues to play on.
For movie fans, “Babylon” is a feast of what happens behind the scenes. The Twenties was wild. Seen through the character of Manny, who slowly works his way up the ladder to a respectable Hollywood business position, it was a stepping stone and he moved away in time. For others, well, you shall see.
There are so many stars in this film, one needs not one, but two notebooks. Blink and you will miss someone. The composition of “Babylon” is a masterpiece in production, including costume, music, cinematography – and yet, there is something missing in the mélange. It is like watching a newsreel with moments in time and then it continues. So it is with “Babylon,” and vignettes of how many extras are needed for a scene, how long people wait behind the cameras before a shot that lasts a few seconds. How much time, period, goes into a 90 minute film for the audience. No wonder from a best-selling novel to the scene, can take 20 years. For those longing for that special part in a film to come to them, takes years. On the other side of the coin, those to whom popularity comes in an instant, when the audience fades from view, time has gone by in seconds. So it is in “Babylon.”
Copyright 2023 Marie Asner