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    "Babylon" Is A Pretty Dark Movie About Making Movies In 1920s Hollywood, And It's A LOT

    Tobey Maguire has a cameo as a drug-fueled casino owner who has REALLY BAD ideas for movies. And, yeah, you read that all right.

    In case you haven't heard of it yet, Babylon is the latest film from Damien Chazelle of Whiplash and La La Land fame, and it stars Diego Calva, Margot Robbie, and Brad Pitt.

    Margot as Nellie, wearing a red drop neck mini dress, lying on the floor smoking

    Set in 1920s Los Angeles, and inspired by real Old Hollywood lore, Babylon tells a tale of excess, glamour, and seediness as it traces the rise and fall of multiple characters during an era of decadence and depravity.

    Nellie being held up by a crowd during the party

    BTW, before we get going here, if you want to know absolutely nothing about the film going into it, skip to the end for the tl;dr. I won't reveal any major spoilers, but obviously, I gotta talk about the film somehow!

    So, here's the setup...

    The film opens with a young man named Manny Torres (Diego Calva), who is modeled after real-life figures like 1920s Hollywood studio executive and Cuban immigrant René Cardona.

    Diego Calva as Manny, looking at Variety magazine outside a mansion

    Born in the US to Mexican immigrant parents, Manny is an ambitious, hard worker who's willing to go to great lengths to succeed. In the first "OMG" scene, Manny has to haul a several-ton elephant up a mountain to a film studio mogul's mansion for a party. When it looks like shit's about to hit the fan (literally), he steps it up and gets the job done.

    A giant mansion on an empty hill

    Manny eventually arrives at the mansion — owned by the fictional Kinoscope studio mogul Don Wallach (Jeff Garlin) — and what he finds is a raging Hollywood party in full swing. There are naked people dancing, other people having sex throughout the home, alcohol, drugs...heck, any vice you can name, it's probably happening at this party.

    People dancing around a stage and a small person holding a penis shaped pogo stick

    And the party really hits its stride when wannabe star Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie) crashes it. She's a small-town girl in the vein of silent film stars like Clara Bow (a sex symbol in her time), Alma Rubens, and Lia LaPutti.

    Nellie pointing

    And, as luck would have it, Nellie and Manny hit it off right away — they both want to work in pictures! "I always wanted to be part of something bigger," Manny says, to which Nellie agrees.

    Nellie and Manny embraced on the dance floor

    Meanwhile, Hollywood leading man Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt) — inspired by the likes of John Gilbert, Douglas Fairbanks, and more — is fresh off another divorce, and already on the prowl for the next ex-Mrs. Conrad. Although he's at the peak of his career, there's a sense that something bad is looming in his future.

    Brad Pitt as Jack Conrad wearing a leather coat with long hair and a pencil mustache

    Nellie's raucousness eventually pays off, and she catches the eye of Don's henchman, Bob (Flea). He tells Nellie to show up on set tomorrow for a part. Meanwhile, Manny hits it off with Conrad when he's tasked with driving him home from the party.

    Manny carrying a drunk Jack out of his car up into the house

    And what plays out for the remaining THREE hours (YES, this movie is over three hours long) is a dark and frenzied tale that weaves these three characters' lives in and out of each other as they adjust to Hollywood's shift from silent pictures to talkies.

    Nellie on the shoulders of a man, holding sparklers at another party

    While Manny, Nellie, and Jack's stories take up the majority of the story, there are also some supporting storylines that follow the trials and tribulations of film stars Lady Fay Zhu (Li Jun Li) and Sidney Palmer (Jovan Adepo) — fictional characters modeled after IRL Old Hollywood stars like Anna May Wong and Louis Armstrong.

    Both of these characters' journeys touch upon the struggles of being a queer and/or person of color star in 1920s Hollywood, which, as you can imagine, was less than ideal. Given the film is such an ensemble piece, it might have been nice to elevate these two stories even more (as is, they feel kind of wedged in), but you can at least rest assured that things end more or less happily for both of them.

    Lady Fay wearing a tuxedo and top hat, and Sidney in a tuxedo, sitting at a party surrounded by rich white people

    Although the film takes place in the glamorous days of Old Hollywood, make no mistake that it can get REALLY dark and kinda wild. Like, you will literally see poop, pee, blood, orgies, people doing lots of drugs, and more within the first 15 minutes of the film... So, ya know, this ain't exactly wholesome content.

    Nellie and Manny doing cocaine

    But that's not to say there aren't plenty of old-timey entertaining spectacles throughout the film. In fact, there's a particularly great scene involving a race against the setting sun to get THE perfect shot, which will have you stressed right alongside the characters.

    the sun setting as a crew tries to get the perfect shot for a movie

    With such a long runtime and an ambitious storyline, Babylon can feel meandering at times. We do eventually focus in on Manny's journey — seemingly the only truly redeemable lead in the film (maybe) — but it takes a while to get there.

    Manny on set, with a camera booth behind him

    Some highlights include a foot-tapping soundtrack (oftentimes reminiscent, for better or worse, of La La Land) featuring the dance-y tunes of IRL saxophonist Leo Pellegrino...

    Sidney playing trumpet at a decadent party

    ...and also a breakout performance by relative newcomer Diego Calva.

    Manny celebrating on set

    Oh, and without saying too much, there's a particularly great cameo by Tobey Maguire (who is also an executive producer on the film) as a drug-fueled casino owner named James McKay who has REALLY BAD ideas for movies. And, yeah, you read that all right.

    Tobey Maguire as James mcKay, wearing a vest, with his eyes all red

    Overall, Babylon feels like a kind of fever dream of Old Hollywood. With a lot of inspiration taken from Singing in the Rain, other films of that era, and 1920s lore, Babylon takes a classic Hollywood story and runs it down into the dark underbelly of Los Angeles for a truly wild and upsetting ride.

    Manny standing in a movie theater looking up at the screen

    Babylon lands in theaters Dec. 23, and you can watch the official trailer for it here:

    View this video on YouTube

    Paramount Pictures / Via