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Babel

Why does this movie exist?

Like, really, it was so incomprehensibly bad in so many ways that I, I, I can't even wrap my head around it.  Miserable Class of Death II, at least when I had to watch a dry international/political movie for your predecessor, "Rendition" gave me the purtyness of Jake Gyllenhaal and Reese Witherspoon, even if not together.  WHAT DID YOU GIVE ME, BABEL?  Masturbating/incestuous preteens, a naked Japanese schoolgirl, small children watching a chicken get killed for a Mexican wedding feast? 

How am I supposed to write a paper on this for Monday?  It really better be a reaction paper, because I am going to have to get sarcastic and angry, with absolutely no chance of BSing politically correct stuff about how unfairly the poor Moroccan rural dwellers were treated, or the U.S. blows suspected acts of terrorism out of proportion, or how our entry/exit points with Mexico are cruel and unfair.  The best I can do is make my scathing disgust sound like a sharply written analysis of why the film fails at achieving this PC goal.

The one thing this movie has going for it is Brad Pitt.  Which is not a thing I normally say, because I find Brad Pitt to be generally overrated (though he's getting better with age), but in this film full of confusing nonsense and subtitles in four different languages, I was clinging to any familiar face I could.  It helped that Brad Pitt's entire role in this movie is too look distressed and/or cry while kneeling by his wife's side.  (as they wait in vain for access to proper medical treatment, after she gets shot just above the collarbone through a tourist bus's window.)

The specification is important later; right now all you need you to know is that it involves an American woman getting shot and bleeding all over the place.  While in a foreign country, stranded hours from the nearest building with electricity, getting the wound temporarily sewn up with a sterilized-by-flame needle.  While her husband looks on helplessly, torn between rage and despair.  IT ACTIVATES A LOT OF MY HURT/COMFORT SCENARIOS. 

Things the film doesn't have  going for it:
-a preteen boy making orgasm faces with his hand between his legs (after spying on his older sister getting undressed.  While she kind of encouraged his peeping)

-Said preteen boy arguing with his brother about how far their rifle can fire, and so they start SHOOTING AT CARS ON THE ROAD BELOW to prove its abilities.  Seriously.  That doesn't seem slightly dangerous to you?  ARE YOU RETARDED?

-A sexually frustrated and confused deaf Japanese girl, who - in addition to swilling whiskey and popping a pill her friend's cousin offers - at various points
a) flashes her crotch at a boy her spurns her after discovering she's deaf,
b) goes pantie-less to her dentist's appointment, licks the middle-aged dentist's cheek while he examines her teeth, and then forces his hand between her legs
c) tricks a detective into coming to her apartment with the promise of news about her father, then comes out to greet him totally naked and tries to seduce him until he pushes her away (and then she starts crying and he comforts her despite the nudity.  it's weird), and
d) hangs out naked on the CITY-OVERLOOKING balcony until her father comes home, being all PTSO-depressive about her mother's suicide (and/or her false belief in her own ugliness, maybe), and lets herself be comforted with a hug...STILL TOTALLY NAKED.

-The fact that none of the scenes in Japan ARE NECESSARY IN ANY WAY for the ultimate tying-together of all the plot points

-Brad Pitt's character doesn't get any scenes with his two little movie kids, one of whom is Elle Fanning and therefore super adorable.  Talk about a wasted opportunity.

Also: A lot of the film's interest came from the way I was waiting to see how all the stories tied together.  Except only two of them did.  Like, the entire "nanny takes her charges to Mexico for her son's wedding because she can't find anyone else to watch them for a day" plot.  Why was that there?  And, OK, that part was fine.  What I really want to know is how did that devolve into her crazy nephew running away from the border guards when they came back, and her getting left with the kids in the desert overnight, and then losing the kids when she went to find the road so that they almost died of dehydration/heat stroke? 

Was the whole wife-getting-shot-in-Morocco thing NOT ENOUGH DRAMA for Brad Pitt's character?  (hereafter referred to as Brad Pitt, because I don't remember if we ever got a character name)  He's not Horatio Caine!  So, he goes through 5 days of hell, barely manages to get his wife out alive (which, thank God, if they'd killed Cate Blanchett I would have been even angrier), and he's not even HOME YET when he finds out that his kids almost got lost and died in Mexico?!  Because, this whole Mexico-sideline plot doesn't even start, timeline-wise in the film, until he's gotten his wife to a hospital. 

I mean, I'm assuming that's when it happens.  Because the most mystifying part of this plotline is that it has no resolution.  We never get to see Brad & Cate come home, get reunited with their kids, and/or unleash a can of whoop-ass on their intolerably stupid old nanny.  We're just told that after they got a hold of him in Morocco, "he's angry, but decided not to press charges" while the U.S. government deports her for being intolerably stupid (is the basic idea).  And then the film's basically over.  Explain to me, WHY IS THAT THERE except as an excuse to add Spanish to the languages of Babel?

I'm almost done, I swear: But, OK, you know where this film really epically failed?  I had zero sympathy for anyone who wasn't white.  Which I think is the direct opposite of what the film wanted, but GOOD GOD, THEY WERE ALL SO IRRITATING.  Even Amelia the nanny, I was feeling kind of OK towards until she came back across the border at "almost dawn" with her possibly-drunk nephew driving, and I was like "Really, Amelia?  REALLY?  This time of night, you don't think this situation might make the border guards suspicious at ALL?"
 
I was pretty sure I was supposed to care when the police got all rough with the poor innocent old guy and his wife, and started slapping him around when he didn't answer their questions well enough, but I couldn't bring myself to feel anything.

I was filled with glee and joy when the father of the incestuous/rifle-happy children found out about their various misdeeds/crimes, and start slapping them all about the face.  THAT WAS HYSTERICAL.  MOAR PLZ.

And then when the older (or at least taller) boy got shot when the family tried to flee the police?  I was doubled over, trying to contain what I'm sure was a highly inappropriate laugh.  I mean, you always say things like "I hope he dies," about characters you dislike, but then when it actually happens... 
 
In short, I had issues with everything.

Conclusion: I...honestly do not know how this film ever tempted anyone to go see it.  I think I even remember hearing it got all kinds of awards, but I don't want to look this fact up because I would just, I would just have to rock and sob in a corner if that were true.  Even if you didn't count all my issues with it, the film is just so long, dull, with so many scenes that make you go "Why is this here?", and doesn't even weave a compelling 'here's how everything ties together!' story, that I cannot conceive of how anyone could think it was worth their time.

Unless you like Brad Pitt crying.  Even grimy and bloody, he's kind of pretty when he cries.

EDIT: LOL LOL LOL, look what I found!  Via topfive_reviews :
I imagine screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga simply came up with a bunch of characters that spoke different languages, then said to himself "what's the absolute worst decision my character could make here?" and the rest wrote itself.
--SO TRUE.

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Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
mrstater
Sep. 5th, 2008 01:13 am (UTC)
Oh god, I thought Mr. Tater and I were the only people who HATED this movie. It got all that award hype, and the trailers made it look like a thriller, and then it sucked for all the reasons you were saying, plus it was freaking BORING. The character connections reminded me of some of the stupider connections on LOST. Bleh, I've tried to forget this movie, but the Japanese girl's vagina is grafted in my memory. Bleh.

Edited at 2008-09-05 01:13 am (UTC)
rainbowstevie
Sep. 5th, 2008 03:44 am (UTC)
THANK YOU. I'm glad even some smart people are able to watch this with "WTF" in mind. But lol at the Lost comparisons; that's a pretty apt description.

Bleh, I've tried to forget this movie, but the Japanese girl's vagina is grafted in my memory.
"Bleh" is right. About two minutes before that happened, I figured out what was coming and told myself I was going to look away soon, but I didn't want to miss whatever might be said in subtitles...and then suddenly it was too late.
lieueitak
Sep. 5th, 2008 01:59 am (UTC)
I loved this movie. Not that you're interested, but I actually ended up writing "Castaway Dreams" after reading an interview with the writer/director before seeing the movie.

in this film full of confusing nonsense and subtitles in four different languages That would kind of go with the whole "Babel" theme though, no?

The fact that none of the scenes in Japan ARE NECESSARY IN ANY WAY for the ultimate tying-together of all the plot points This aspect of the story is maybe the most flimsily related in terms of plot, BUT it is explained. The father sells the gun that ends up in Morocco. Thematically, I think it's what sets up the rest of the stories. The deaf girl needed to be comforted by her mother's death, needed to connect with someone. And ultimately she DOES connect in a way that matters -- where as everyone else, also looking for the same thing, doesn't get that.

A lot of the film's interest came from the way I was waiting to see how all the stories tied together. Except only two of them did. They're all related. The Japanese family provides the origins for the gun. They sell the gun, and it ends up in the Moroccan's hands. He shoots Cate Blanchett, which kicks off that storyline. And Cate and Brad are the parents of the children in the story, which sets up the nanny's storyline. That's how they are all physically related. And of course, thematically they are related.

I think for everything to be tied into a neat little bow or to keep everything closely related would actually take away from the premise of the film. Biblical Babel is all about confusion and going in the wrong direction under the guise of rightness.
rainbowstevie
Sep. 5th, 2008 03:39 am (UTC)
That would kind of go with the whole "Babel" theme though, no?
Well, obviously, but I often get annoyed by subtitles in films because it means I can't multi-task during the boring parts; I have to listen AND watch. And that makes me cranky. Plus there were several parts during the film where I thought, 'I'd bet a dollar that some guy just thought this would make a cool movie title, and then forced a script into existence around that fact.'

This aspect of the story is maybe the most flimsily related in terms of plot, BUT it is explained.
Yes, but my point is that we didn't need to delve anywhere NEAR that deeply into the life of the DAUGHTER of the man who sold the gun*. That gun could have come from anywhere. It was in no way necessary for purposes of the plot, and so devoting what sure as hell felt like a good 50% of the screen time to her was especially annoying.

And I remain adamant about the fact that the nanny didn't need a storyline. Honestly, no point - all that really matters is that Brad and Cate have kids; nothing needed to happen to the kids while they were gone. This film could have been half as long without any loss to the main plot whatsoever. The shooter and victim are the only two worlds that directly tie together.

* = OK, there's a slightly better case for them being thematically related, but...oh, the theme of connection, is that what was happening with the Japanese girl? I missed a lot of what went on there, since she was busy being naked, which meant I was busy not watching the screen. FIND A BETTER WAY TO TELL YOUR STORY, FILM PEOPLE.

Now that I think about it, you probably can't speak to me about this movie in any way that will result in a rational conversation from my end. Sorry.
lieueitak
Sep. 5th, 2008 04:09 am (UTC)
'I'd bet a dollar that some guy just thought this would make a cool movie title, and then forced a script into existence around that fact.' ...So? The script is definitely result of the writer wanting to explore a very specific idea. But then... aren't all scripts? In this case, the concept was not only Babel but also that what makes people miserable is what binds them together.

That gun could have come from anywhere. Well, isn't that true for every single point of every single movie ever made? The gun could have come from anywhere; Cate didn't have to be shot; Voldemort didn't have to try to kill Harry; Harry didn't have to be the boy in the prophecy, etc., etc.

And I remain adamant about the fact that the nanny didn't need a storyline. But she did. The movie was never intended to be solely about the Brad Pitt story, but rather a series of stories interwoven together. There is no "main plot." And I don't think the Babel concept would have worked with just a single story. You can't really get the chaos and confusion necessary with just one story. Nor could you explore the idea that somehow our miserable experiences make us sympathetic and relateable with only one story.

the theme of connection, is that what was happening with the Japanese girl? Yes. Also, I wikied the movie, because it's been a while since I've watched. And the father was an avid hunter. He took a hunting trip to Morocco and ended up giving his gun to his guide, who ends up selling it to the family who is the center of that part of the story.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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