“Set in Hollywood during the transition from silent films to talkies, focusing on a mixture of historical & fictional characters.

Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Staring: Olivia Wilde, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Samara Weaving, Tobey Maguire, Katherine Waterson, Eric Roberts, Jean Smart
Rating: TBD
Release Date: January 6, 2023

Here we go. Let’s get after it. The Babylon trailer has arrived. I know I am a day late, but hell, that is not an excuse to not be excited.

Director and writer Damien Chazelle does not miss, and Babylon (2022) is the biggest project of his young career. Whiplash (2014) was a fucking massive debut that won three Oscars and was nominated for five. He followed it up with La La Land (2016), which managed more mainstream success while also winning six Academy Awards while being nominated for 14. In 2018 Chazelle went more biopic with First Man, which garnered four nominations and one win.

Here is big clue to if you are successful in Hollywood; if your biggest disappointment of a film gets for nominations to the year end award bash, then you are doing just find.

Now back with his first movie in nearly four years, Chazelle is going back to the land of arts and culture with a story that takes place at the crucial time when Hollywood was transitioning from the silent films, to talkies. Babylon follows an array of characters in the changing Hollywood world, almost all of whom are played by massive talents.

Brad Pitt plays Jack Conrad. and the most successful actor in the world? Or at least, that is what it appears like. Conrad is is rebel of Hollywood, or so how he describes himself. Diego Calva appears to play a major role as Manny Torres, the young up-and-comer friend of Nielle LaRoy (Margot Robbie), who herself is aiming to have all the money in the world to spend on fun things.

Brad Pitt as Jack Conrad

Samara Weaving is among the cast, which only bolsters the stock that I bought up in her years ago. Tobey Maguire is back, and looking very sickly, as a character by a name of James McKay. Jean Smart, fresh off the success of Hacks, gets a ton of screen time in this trailer playing the part of Elinor St. John.

Tobey Maguire as James McKay

Oh, and there is Olivia Wilde in Babylon, which is possibly good or bad depending on your point of view. Wilde has bee at the center of a lot of controversy and drama surrounding the movie Don’t Worry, Darling (2022). It has been juicy if you haven’t read about it or watched the Chris Pine videos. The biggest question for Babylon showrunner Damien Chazelle is whether or not all press is good press, or will Wilde be kept off the press tour. This movie is going to content for academy awards. It is going to garner a lot of eyes from Hollywood, because not only is it going to be a good movie, but it is a movie about Hollywood.

The plot of Babylon is not going to be a straight forward, one-track ride. Unlike in Whiplash, La La Land and First Man, this Chazelle story is going to follow more than just a few people. It is not a teacher-student relationship, or a pair of young lovers, or a pair of veteran lovers. Babylon is going to fall “the rise and fall of multiple dreamers in 1920 Los Angeles.” While the idea of chasing a dream and overcoming road bumps is not foreign to Chazelle stories, this story becoming a six lane highway rather than a two-lane road is a huge reason to get excited.

Looking at this trailer, it looks like we have three stages of stars.

Conrad is the star of the silent films and he is excited to become the face of the new age of Hollywood. However, his starry image of himself is possibly blinding him from the reality that his workspace is evolving faster than he can keep up. He is warned of this late in the trailer by one of the most senior characters in the movie, Elinor St. John (Jean Hacks).

“You thought this town needed you. It’s bigger than you.”

Jean Smart’s character Elinor St. John talking to Brad Pitt’s Jack Conrad.

The other Hollywood looking veterans include the character that actor Eric Roberts plays. Based on a clip in the trailer, I think Roberts character is friends with Conrad and is looking to ride his coattails into the new age. The older star hitching his wagon to a younger star…but not the youngest.

Neille LaRoy (Margot Robbie) and Manny Torres (Diego Calva) are the youngest generation in Los Angeles, and they are the ones seeing the change in atmosphere. It is a whirlwind of a change for the industry, and while these two can see the winds blowing, the question is whether or not they will get swept up into it. Torres seems to have more of a balanced mindset, but LaRoy is getting swept off her feet. She finds herself in trouble in this movie, and Manny is her safety net. LaRoy is trying to land success in Hollywood like Mary Poppins, but instead the gusts take her umbrella and takes her on a rollercoaster ride of success and failure.

So we have the has-beens, the current stars, and the up-and-comers. Each are standing on solid ground, but that foundation is shifting underneath their feet and adapting is not always the easiest thing to ask successful people to do.

Margot Robbie As Nellie LaRoy

Damien Chazelle has his style, and even in a trailer as loud as this one, you can tell that Babylon is his pet project. There are really quick edits. There are very obvious color pallets and hues that he is playing with. And of course there is music; it’s jazzy, loud and filled with trumpets. There are plenty of shots of Jovan Adepo playing Sidney Palmer, who is a trumpet player and leader of a band.

Chazelle has three successful movies, and Babylon is his biggest movie yet. The first budget estimate was around 80 million dollars, and he (as reported) had to rework the script to reduce the budget. Chazelle also had to do some rewriting when Margot Robbie was brought on in replace Emma Stone. This would have been Stone’s second forray with Chazelle, but with COVID delaying the filming, it opened the door for Robbie to enter.

Now Robbie gets to work with Pitt for the third time. The two shared the screen with Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019), which was also set during a time when Hollywood was changing. Both Tarantino’s story and Chazelle’s upcoming movie explore changes in Hollywood, and both explore fictional elements attached to real life personas and people.

For those curious, the first movie Robbie and Pitt worked together on was The Big Short (2015).

Babylon‘s cast has two Oscar winners in Brad Pitt for Best Supporting Actor in Once Upon In Hollywood and Spike Jonze for Best Original Screenplay for Her (2013). Margot Robbie and Eric Roberts have been nominated. It is safe to say that someone from Babylon‘s cast is going to be adding to their trophy case. If I can put forward a prediction for acting nominations, I hypothesize that Jean Smart and Margot Robbie are going to be the ones with the most attention come the 95th Academy Awards.

Babylon comes out in select theaters in late December and is released worldwide on Monday, January 6th.

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