Babylon (2022): A Movie Review

James Lanternman
4 min readFeb 1
© 2022 Paramount Pictures

Babylon is 3 hours and 9 minutes long, and would need to be 60 minutes to work. Could it be 60 minutes? Nope. No feature-length film could be.

And the way this one shows such an over-sized world, and takes time to saunter and hang-out there, there is no Earthly way to wrap it up even at the 90 minutes mark.

I think I see what Damien Chazelle was aiming for. He wants it wants to be an epic, irreverent, dark-but-funny exploration of Hollywood’s origins? An over-the-top parody that can’t be taken seriously, with serious social commentary? Both a critique and love letter to a magical but decadent and depraved industry? An action-packed, bloody, disgusting joyride, as well as an epic meditation?

A serious parody. A 189 minutes long, gruelling joyride. Ah, shit. Maybe something like that could work, but this movie does not.

If the film could end 60 minutes in, I would have reviewed it as an over-the-top, gross-out parody, with some surprisingly funny moments, though cringeworthy and contrived in moments and obviously provocative in others. A weird Tarantino/Baz Luhrmann/Paul Thomas Anderson/David Lynch knock-off, but functional as a big, loud, high-energy viewing experience that viscerally entertains on some levels, explores the depravity of Hollywood in others, and which plenty will be entertained by. A curious cinematic experiment from a notable director, that works in some ways, and doesn’t in others.

By 90 minutes, things start to feel played out. By 150 minutes in, torturous. In the last half-hour you are most likely to be discreetly checking the time, and mentally planning the trip home.

A couple next to me, who laughed loudly multiple times in the first half, and hysterically during one scene, snuck out the theatre midway through the second half. There were plenty of positive reactions, in the first half. The audience clearly wanted to have fun with the movie. There were none in the second half, and I am certain it was not because they were silently weeping or in awe (the story takes on a more serious tone, and stops trying to make the viewer laugh as much).

I envied the couple who left early, cursing my need for completion, to see the full thing and be sure I didn’t miss something that might alter my opinion.

James Lanternman

Movie reviews, essays, and moonlit thoughts.