Thursday, June 20, 2024

Much Anticipated 3 Hour Damien Chazelle Film “Babylon” Screens in NY with Margot Robbie, Jean Smart, and Brad Pitt Doing Pratfalls During Q&A


“Babylon” is here. It’s really Hollywood Babylon, sort of referencing Kenneth Anger’s famous book about Tinseltown before talkies made everyone so serious. It was a time of bacchanalias, sort of “The Great Gatsby” on the west coast.

No reviews yet– the movie doesn’t open until December 23rd. But director Damien Chazelle — he of “Whiplash,” “La La Land,” and “First Man” — brought his all star cast to New York yesterday for two screenings and two Q&As after showing it to the folks in actual Hollywood a couple of days ago.

Present at AMC Lincoln Square were members of the Producers Guild as well as some notable actors like the great Cherry Jones and Barbara Barrie. The latter is a youthful 91 years old and a sprite. She came to the screening on her own because no one in her family was around to accompany her!

What am I allowed to tell you? Well, this is the Era of Jean Smart. She plays a gossip columnist who is dogging a movie company trying to get info. This is before Louella Parsons or Hedda Hopper, and she’s based on a real person. Smart is riveting all through the film and then has a scene with Brad Pitt — not sexual, cut it out — that may land them each Oscar nominations in the supporting categories. The movie is sumptuous. And that’s all I can say for now.

On stage the cast was charming and happy to be with each other. That included Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo, Li Jun Li, and Diego Calva, who makes an impressive debut as Chazelle’s Nick Carraway. Pitt was especially fun, nearly falling when his chair on stage actually collapsed, then doing pratfalls, and finally tossing his microphone out when it didn’t work and getting lots of laughs. Pitt announced on stage that he was waiting to make the next Damian Chazelle movie, so that’s a good sign.

“Babylon” clocks in at a little over three hours and it is never boring. Any attempts to nod out are challenged by a fascinating film. So hold on!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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