Babylon: A Golden Age Tarnished?

Damien Chazelle’s extravagant period piece, “Babylon,” arrived in theaters in December 2022, promising a wild ride through the decadent underbelly of Hollywood’s silent film era transitioning to “talkies.” Starring Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, and a stellar ensemble cast, the film generated immense buzz. 

However, upon release, “Babylon” sparked a firestorm of reactions, reflected in its divisive score on Rotten Tomatoes. Let’s delve into the film’s critical reception and explore the reasons behind the “fresh” vs. “rotten” debate.

A Tale of Old Hollywood Excess: The Plot and Premise

“Babylon” the rise and fall of stars amidst the tumultuous 

shift from films to “talkies” in the late 1920s. Jack Conrad (Pitt), a faded silent film star struggling to adapt to the new technology, grapples with alcoholism and a fading career. Nellie LaRoy (Robbie), a young woman with fiery ambition, claws her way to stardom in the new Hollywood landscape.

The film explores themes of ambition, addiction, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the brutal underbelly of Hollywood’s golden age. Chazelle, known for his energetic directing style (think “Whiplash” and “La La Land”), injects “Babylon” with his signature frenetic energy, depicting the era’s hedonism and ruthlessness in a visually captivating and often shocking manner.

A Rotten Score? Critics Divided on Babylon’s Merits

Upon release, “Babylon” received a score of 55% on Rotten Tomatoes, signifying a “rotten” reception from critics according to the platform’s aggregate system. This score surprised many, considering the film’s pedigree and star power. However, a closer look at the reviews reveals a wide range of opinions.

Those Who Praise It:

Visual Spectacle: Many critics lauded “Babylon” for its stunning visuals, with praise for the opulent set design, dazzling costumes, and Chazelle’s dynamic camerawork. The film is a feast for the eyes, transporting viewers to a bygone era of Hollywood excess.

Stellar Performances: The cast received high marks across the board, with particular praise for Brad Pitt’s nuanced portrayal of a fading star and Margot Robbie’s electrifying turn as the ambitious Nellie LaRoy. Diego Calva, as a Mexican aspiring filmmaker caught in the Hollywood machine, also garnered critical acclaim.

Ambitious Storytelling: While some found the narrative sprawling, others appreciated Chazelle’s ambitious attempt to capture the wild energy and ruthless spirit of early Hollywood. The film tackles mature themes and doesn’t shy away from portraying the dark side of the industry.

Those Who Criticize It:

Excessive Indulgence: Some critics felt that the film’s indulgence in depicting Hollywood’s debauchery became tiresome. The relentless barrage of violence, drug use, and graphic content left some viewers feeling overwhelmed and desensitized.

Uneven Pacing: The film’s three-hour runtime was a point of contention for some reviewers. The narrative, while ambitious, was criticized for feeling overstuffed and lacking focus at times.

Shallow Characters: Despite strong performances, some critics argued that the characters lacked depth beyond their pursuit of fame and fortune. “Babylon” prioritizes spectacle over character development, according to this view.

Beyond the Score: Audience Reception and Box Office Performance

While the critical reception was mixed, audience reaction leaned more positive. “Babylon” holds a 51% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, indicating that many viewers enjoyed the film despite its flaws.The film’s box office collection fell short of expectations. With a reported budget of $80 million, “Babylon” only grossed around $15 million worldwide, marking a significant financial disappointment. This financial failure can be attributed, in part, to the film’s divisive critical reception and its R-rating, which limited its audience reach.

A Legacy of Excess: Babylon’s Place in Cinema

Despite the mixed reviews and box office woes, “Babylon” remains a visually stunning and ambitious film. Chazelle’s vision of Hollywood’s golden age is undeniably captivating, even if it’s unsettling at times. Whether you find it a masterpiece or a messy indulgence depends on your tolerance for excess and your desire for a nuanced historical portrayal.

One thing’s for sure: “Babylon” is a film that will spark conversation. It’s a challenging and thought-provoking exploration of Hollywood’s dark side, wrapped in a dazzling cinematic package. Ultimately, its place in cinematic history will be debated for years to come.


Where was Babylon located?

Babylon was a powerful Mesopotamian city-state in present-day Iraq, known for its advancements in astronomy, mathematics, and law.

What’s the significance of Babylon?

Babylon was a major cultural and political center for centuries, influencing surrounding civilizations. Its Hanging Gardens are considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Where can I learn more about Babylon?

Numerous resources exist! Explore reputable websites like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or documentaries on Youtube channels like National Geographic

Babylon: A Golden Age or a Tinseltown Trap? Unveiling the Film’s Secrets

Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon” promises a wild ride through Hollywood’s golden age. But with its epic runtime and mixed reviews, you might have questions before diving in. This FAQ sheds light on the film’s mysteries!

What is Babylon about?

Babylon explores the decadent and ruthless underbelly of Hollywood’s silent film transition to “talkies” in the late 1920s. It follows the rise and fall of several ambitious characters chasing their dreams in the chaotic world of filmmaking.

Who stars in Babylon?

The film boasts a star-studded cast, including:

Brad Pitt as Jack Conrad, a fading silent film star struggling to adapt to sound.

Margot Robbie as Nellie LaRoy, a wild and ambitious aspiring actress.

Diego Calva as Manny Torres, a Mexican immigrant trying to climb the Hollywood ladder.

Jean Smart as Elinor St. John, a powerful gossip columnist.

Is Babylon historically accurate?

While it takes inspiration from real-life events, Babylon fictionalizes the characters and storylines. It aims to capture the essence of the era rather than be a strictly historical account.

Is Babylon a comedy, drama, or something else?

Babylon is a genre-bending film. It blends elements of dark comedy, historical drama, and outrageous satire to create a unique cinematic experience.

The Reviews Are In: Critical Darling or Box Office Dud?

Reviews for Babylon are divided. Here’s what you might encounter:

Praise: Critics who enjoyed the film admire its visual grandeur, energetic performances, and its exploration of Hollywood’s dark side.

Criticism: Some critiques focus on the film’s excessive length, pacing issues, and portrayal of certain characters and historical events.

Should I Watch Babylon? Here’s How to Decide Love Epic Dramas? Buckle Up!

 If you enjoy sprawling historical narratives with larger-than-life characters, Babylon might be for you.

Fan of Chazelle’s Work? Give it a Shot

 If you enjoyed Damien Chazelle’s previous films like “Whiplash” and “La La Land,” Babylon might resonate with you.

Prefer Something Shorter and Tighter? Look Elsewhere

 With a runtime exceeding 3 hours, Babylon might feel like a marathon for some viewers.

What are some Alternatives to Babylon?

If you’re intrigued by the Golden Age of Hollywood but Babylon isn’t your style, here are some options:

Singin’ in the Rain (1952): A classic Hollywood musical comedy that satirizes the transition to sound.

Sunset Boulevard (1950): A film noir exploring the dark side of Hollywood and faded stardom.

The Artist (2011): A silent film set in the late 1920s that pays homage to the era.

The Final Reel: Lights, Camera, Action (or Not)?

Babylon is a visually stunning and ambitious film, but it’s not for everyone. Consider your movie preferences, the mixed reviews, and the film’s length before deciding if you’re ready to be transported to the dazzling and dark world of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

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