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Movies & TV

21st Jul 2023

One of 2023’s most controversial movies is now available to stream at home

Stephen Porzio


Despite three Oscar nominations, the comedy-drama did not fare well at the box-office but should find a bigger audience through streaming.

It is quite rare for a mainstream movie to get that blood red 18s rating from the Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO) but the epic black comedy-drama Babylon managed to do it when it was released in cinemas in January 2023.

Set during the decadent days of early Hollywood, the movie centres around Manny Torres (Diego Calva), a Mexican immigrant that dreams of making it in Tinseltown and, as such, works his way up through the behind-the-scenes part of the business.

During this time, he meets several characters – movie star Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), aspiring actress Nellie La Roy (Margot Robbie), jazz trumpeter Sidney Palmer (Jovan Adepo) and cabaret-singer Lady Fay Zhu (Li Jun Li) – with the film chronicling Manny and these other characters’ rise and fall.

Written and directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Damien Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash), Babylon’s efforts to capture the hedonism of the era in which its set is what led to the strong IFCO rating, with the organisation handing out the 18 certificate for:

“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.”

This excessiveness, along with the movie’s whopping 189 minute running time, was no doubt a factor in the divided reception to Babylon – with the film appearing to earn both scorn and praise from critics in equal measure (it currently holds a 56% Rotten Tomatoes score).

The parts of the movie often singled out for praise though include the scenes detailing how older films were made, Chazelle’s vivid and immersive direction, Justin Hurwitz’ energetic and Oscar-nominated score, Robbie’s fearless performance and Tobey Maguire’s memorable supporting turn as a menacing gangster to whom Manny and Nellie wind up in debt.


Brad Pitt and Diego Calva in Babylon

You can read some of the more positive reviews for Babylon below:

The Atlantic: “Chazelle is trying to make a point with all the excess… I’m not sure if I agree or if I was simply beaten into submission after more than three hours, but Babylon is the kind of grandiose folly that at least gives the viewer a big old mess to chew on.”

AV Club: “Shimmering, mournful, and riotous, Babylon is one of the year’s best movies, thanks in part to a star-making performance by Diego Calva.”

Detroit News: “Chazelle does a dazzling job of telling his story, even if for large swaths it’s unclear if he’s celebrating movie magic or driving a stake through Hollywood’s heart.”

Independent (UK): “Calva wears a poet’s heart on his sleeve, and beautifully so, while Robbie’s feral performance feels extracted from some higher plane of existence.”

Inside Hook: “Under Chazelle’s bruised showman sensibility, to love something means honestly seeing all the ways in which it is broken and still hearing violins when you look at it anyway.”

Vox: “Babylon is a profoundly humanist film, mourning the tragedies that litter Hollywood histories. But it’s also a worshipful film, one that gladly buys into the dream, the spell, the mystery of it all.”

Meanwhile, JOE’s entertainment editor Rory Cashin wrote in his review:

“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.”

Despite earning three Oscar nominations, Babylon only grossed $63.4 million at the box office on a reported $78-80 million budget. That said, it could find a bigger audience via streaming.

And on that note, you can check out the movie for yourself at home as it is now available to watch via Sky Cinema/Now Cinema.

A trailer for the movie is available to view right here:

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