2 Best Movies to Watch by Samara Weaving

Staff & contributors

Between its maximalist production design and increasingly dark comedic set pieces, the most striking thing about Damien Chazelle's critically misunderstood industry satire is how it strikes a tone closer to tabloid gossip than anything else. As opposed to the clockwork precision of Chazelle's Whiplash, or the dreaminess of La La Land, Babylon's restlessness doesn't resemble Hollywood spectacle so much as it begins to feel like an unscratchable itch, desperate to feel anything. The film ends up trying to say so much that it threatens to say nothing at all, but its vision of cinema becoming reality is so potent that just the experience is more than worth getting lost in.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Aaron Oltman, Albert Hammond Jr., Alex Reznik, Alexandre Chen, Andrew Hawtrey, Anna Chazelle, Ariel Flores, Armando Cosio, Benjamin Jacobson, Bob Clendenin, Brad Pitt, Bregje Heinen, Bryan Scott Johnson, Chloe Fineman, Chris Doubek, Christopher Allen, Cici Lau, Circus-Szalewski, Cyrus Hobbi, Danny Jolles, David Abed, David Ury, Dean Anderson, Diego Calva, E.E. Bell, Eamon Hunt, Eric Roberts, Ethan Suplee, Evan Greer, Flea, Frederick Koehler, Freya Parker, Hansford Prince, J.C. Currais, James Crittenden, James Vincent, James Wellington, Jean Smart, Jeff Garlin, Jennifer Grant, Jeremy Roberts, Jim O'Brien, Jimmy Ortega, Joe Dallesandro, Joey de Leon, John Kerry, John Macey, John Mariano, John Polite, Johnny Britt, Jonathan Ohye, Jordan Seigel, Jovan Adepo, Kaia Gerber, Karen Bethzabe, Karina Fontes, Karolina Szymczak, Katherine Waterston, Katia Gomez, Kenajuan Bentley, Kevin Symons, Kevin Toney, Lewis Tan, Li Jun Li, Lukas Haas, Marc Platt, Marcos A. Ferraez, Margot Robbie, Mather Zickel, Max Minghella, Mike C. Manning, Miraj Grbić, Nana Ghana, Olivia Hamilton, Olivia Wilde, P. J. Byrne, Pat Skipper, Patrick Fugit, Pete Ploszek, Phoebe Tonkin, Ric Sarabia, Robert Beitzel, Robert Morgan, Rory Scovel, Ryan Porter, Samara Weaving, Sarah Ramos, Sean O'Bryan, Shane Powers, Sol Landerman, Spike Jonze, Taylor Hill, Taylor Nichols, Terry Walters, Tobey Maguire, Todd Giebenhain, Trisha Simmons, Troy Metcalf, Vanessa Bednar, Walker Hare, William Roper

Director: Damien Chazelle

Rating: R

This biopic of the little-known Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the world’s first prominent Black classical composer, opens with a fierce indictment of history’s ignorance of its subject. Even if it’s one example of the movie’s dramatic license-taking, the scene — in which the Chevalier (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) challenges his eminent contemporary Mozart to an onstage musical “duel” and easily bests him — is a dramatically thrilling statement of intent for the movie.

Unfortunately, the rest of its overlong runtime doesn’t quite fulfill the promise of that opener. That’s largely because of the writing, which leaves uber-talented performers like Harrison Jr. with only a limited range of notes to play. What’s more, Chevalier stops short of exploring some of the most fascinating facts of its multihyphenate subject’s life — like the role he played in the French Revolution, commanding the first all-Black regiment in Europe — in favor of hewing to a predictable screenwriting formula that demands a romantic element to the plot, even if the one in question is only thinly backed by actual evidence. Still, while some of Chevalier’s filmmaking choices seem to misjudge what makes its subject so interesting, the key facts of his life — his extraordinary skill at music and fencing, the role racism played in blocking his greatest ambitions — still get enough exposure here to make it an enlightening watch.

Genre: Drama, History, Music

Actor: Alec Newman, Alex Fitzalan, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Jessica Boone, Jim High, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Lucy Boynton, Marton Csokas, Minnie Driver, Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo, Samara Weaving, Sian Clifford

Director: Stephen Williams