“Babylon” manages to sicken and inspire

After several months of hype for Damien Chazelle’s fourth major feature film, “Babylon” was released to the public on Dec. 23, 2022. Chazelle can pride himself on a pretty consistent film career, usually making critical successes that audiences are able to fall in love with as well. However, from the first scene in “Babylon,” most audience members will be able to tell that this isn’t going to be a movie for everyone. Right from the get-go, the movie immediately demonstrates just the amount of debauchery it is willing to show, which is a lot. Critics have not treated this movie well since its release, citing the unbelievable amount of nauseating and sickening scenes, but I can’t help but wholeheartedly adore it.

The film follows the lives of several different people working in Hollywood during the ‘20s and ‘30s. The five people that the movie focuses on all meet at a huge party in the film’s first 20 minutes, and from there, enter the exploitative and glamorous world of the entertainment industry. Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Diego Calva are just some of the unmatched talents in the film, with each one getting their chance to shine. The film uses every opportunity it gets to glamorize and degrade its characters as much as possible, often letting the actors simply react to the fantastic and horrifying situations they find themselves caught in.

This is an extremely disgusting movie. It is covered in grime, urine and pretty much any other bodily fluid that you can possibly think of. It does, however, use the raucous scenes to its advantage. The characters will often do horrible things, and the film takes the time to show how far they’ve sunk by making the audience feel gross for watching. It somehow makes you feel just as complacent as the characters are, demonstrating how easily Chazelle is able to suck the audience into his nightmare-Hollywood fantasy. There is a particular sequence that happens about two hours in, lasting for about twenty minutes. It isn’t long, but that sequence includes a surprise performance that steals the entire show, as well as the most revolting and disturbing imagery Chazelle was able to drum up. It is, in my opinion, worth the price of admission alone.

The shots in the movie are beautifully framed, fully engulfing the audience in this world. There are some mind-bending shots in this movie that I genuinely cannot wrap my head around how they did. It makes it all seem so massive and sprawling, keeping the audience invested the whole time. It’s also maybe the funniest movie I’ve seen this year, too. There were moments in this that I genuinely cried from laughing so hard, which is rare for me. Additionally, the score by Justin Hurwitz is absolutely infectious, combining the swinging jazz music of the era with exotic and contemporary sounds.

I’m sure that “Babylon” isn’t going to please everyone. In fact, I don’t think it’s going to please many people. It was an incredibly dark, disturbing and headache-inducing experience that I would recommend checking out at least once, just to know if it’s for you. I loved it, and I was once again reminded why Damien Chazelle is one of my favorite working directors today.