Babylon has a lot of fun pushing that 18 certificate to its limit 2 weeks ago

Babylon has a lot of fun pushing that 18 certificate to its limit

Babylon is one of the first major releases arriving in 2023.

If you go to Babylon's certification page on Ireland's Film Classification Office, you will see that it has been given an 18 cert. IFCO states that the movie features strong incidents of violence, strong incidents of drugs, strong incidents of sex and/or nudity, and strong incidents of language.

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Unusually, IFCO has also provided a more detailed reasoning for the specific certification rating, as follows:

"Frequent use of strong bad language. Frequent depictions of strong drugs usage. Scenes of a strong sexual nature including nudity. Scenes of strong violence with blood and injury detail. Depictions of suicide and animal cruelty. Some distressing scenes including scatological detail. Some discriminatory dialogue and contains some flashing/flickering lights."

Normally, we'd say that IFCO might err on the side of caution when it comes to these certificates, but in the case of Babylon, it is entirely spot on.

Pansexual orgies, giant elephants tsunami'ing shit on people, enough mountains of cocaine to cause an avalanche, wanton acts of violence and hedonism... and that is all within the first ten minutes of the movie.

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Babylon goes out of its way to pummel you with its excesses, an eye-popping spectacle in every sense of the word, right down to its bum-numbing 189-minute runtime.

Writer/director Damien Chazelle devotes the movie's first half to a by-gone age of fast and loose rules and morales in Hollywood. Set during the Roaring Twenties, this initially feels like an uncaged version of one of those parties that DiCaprio's Great Gatsby was always throwing in his lavish pad, but never actually attending himself. Except this one has been thrown by one of the richest movie producers in the world, and he's invited anyone who is anyone.

So we're quickly introduced to the movie's main players: Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), one of the biggest silent film stars in the world; Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie), an aspiring actress who is discovered at the movie's opening bacchanalian party; Manny Torres (Diego Calva), a film assistant who dreams of having a bigger role behind the scenes in Hollywood; Elinor St. John (Jean Smart), one of the town's most revered entertainment journalists; Sidney Palmer (Jovan Adepo), a jazz trumpet player who has been hired as part of a band for the Hollywood elite's shindigs; and Lady Fay (Li Jun Li), a Cabaret singer who also has a very specific job in the silent movie scene.

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However, Chazelle has made his name so far by movies that are tied intrinsically to obeying specific sets of rules, be that in music (Whiplash), dancing (La La Land), or science (First Man). And so it is with Babylon, as the movie's chaotic first half gives way to the reality of the 1930s, and the impact that the arrival of sound in film had on Hollywood and its biggest stars at the time.

Additionally, the drugs'n'sex ideology is also lost to a more puritanical approach by government officials, and so Conrad and LaRoy and co. find themselves on the precipice of a new world, trying to create art and have a good time in a workplace that now demands an almost hermetic seal in order to operate properly.

The issue is that while it is trying to tell a story about how Hollywood used to be so fun before the chase to remain technologically cutting edge, the movie itself also becomes less fun as it goes on.

Pitt and Robbie are both tremendous in their roles, while relative newcomer Calva does a great job of stealing scenes with little more than a look, the fact remains that after that sledgehammer opening hour, Chazelle is forced to be that guy who pulls out the aux cable at a house party so everyone can hear him jamming on his acoustic guitar. Yes, it is still impressive in its own way, but we were all having a lot more fun earlier.

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Babylon arrives in cinemas in Ireland and the UK on Friday, 20 January.