Above: Margot Robbie plays Nellie LaRoy in Babylon from Paramount Pictures.

By Mark Fields

My screening companion said upon exiting Babylon: “I think there might have been a good movie in there somewhere.” Damien Chazelle (La La Land) is a talented director and student of Hollywood mythology, but this self-indulgent, sloppy, and overly long film (3 hours plus!) about the early days of the movie business feels like all his successful-director impulses run amok. Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva and Jean Smart all give credible performances, but they are completely swamped by the lurid storytelling and the break-neck pacing. From a film history perspective, Babylon is an inexplicable blend of fact and fiction that even tries to co-opt the backstory of a true cinematic masterpiece, Singin’ in the Rain.