“Babylon,” released today, is a movie about Hollywood excess. It began in the 1920s in the early days of cinema, as the industry transitioned from silent pictures to talkies. Margot Robbie plays young star Nellie LaRue who wants to make a career for herself, burns brightly and then falls apart. Brad Pitt plays yet another A-list actor destined to be irrelevant. Diego Calva stumbles upon an executive job in Hollywood and tries to steer Robbie’s career while protecting her from her worst impulses (her New Jersey accent and cocaine). Directed by Damien Chazelle of “La La Land” fame. It was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, and it’s the worst movie I’ve seen in years.
The aesthetic is best described by a magazine ad for the fragrance. The movie is so maximalist, so it’s laced with textured set pieces, so glossy with sensory overload that you can almost smell it. But it’s good not to smell, because for the first five minutes the elephant poops right into the camera. Within the next ten minutes, every variety of bodily fluids imaginable gushes from the rich orifices of a Hollywood ball that is one part “Eyes Wide Shut,” one part “Phantom Thread,” and one part “Family Guy.” It’s like “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood,” if Quentin Tarantino directed it as a teenager.
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