Paramount has pulled the curtain back on “Babylon,” Damien Chazelle’s period comedy documenting the excess of the early age of Hollywood. An early screening Monday evening at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills has opened the floodgates for first reactions.
The 188-minute epic represents a return to awards season for Chazelle, who became the youngest best director Oscar winner ever in 2016 for his work helming “La La Land.” His subsequent Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man” and his Sundance breakout “Whiplash” also made sizable dents in their respective awards runs.
Margot Robbie, Diego Calva and Brad Pitt lead “Babylon,” among a stacked cast that includes Tobey Maguire, Jean Smart, Li Jun Li and Jovan Adepo. Chazelle has described the film as being inspired by Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita,” Robert Altman’s “Nashville” and “The Godfather” — “old-school epics that managed, through a handful of characters, to convey a society changing.”
After expressing some trepidation before the screening, Variety awards editor Clayton Davis seemed to fall on the side of liking the movie, calling it a “high octane” trip with a first half better than its second.
Los Angeles Film Critics Association member Ryan Swen wasn’t a fan at all, arguing Chazelle “might be the most confident director in Hollywood today, of course he’s also got some of the worst instincts out there.”
Variety senior artisans editor Jazz Tangcay praised the effort as “phenomenal filmmaking,” with extra kudos for Robbie and Justin Hurwitz’s score.
The Playlist writer Gregory Ellwood said the film is “best when it’s being a straight out comedy,” highlighting PItt and Adepo as ensemble highlights.
Although social media reactions are out there, Paramount has yet to set an embargo date for full reviews.
“Babylon” is slated to hit theaters across North America on Dec. 23. Paramount had initially set plans to debut the film in limited release on Christmas Day before expanding nationwide in early January. The studio’s decision to switch gears for a wide release has been interpreted as a sign of confidence in “Babylon.”
See more “Babylon” reactions below.