Babel not worth understanding anyway
Statistically, most people only read the first few sentences of the vast majority of print articles (often for good reason), so let me get this out of the way right now: Babel is a complete waste of time and money. Donít go see it. Youíre going to spend most of the running time thinking about other things anyway, so you might as well stay home, stare at the wall for a couple hours, and save yourself the eight bucks. I guarantee youíll finish the session in a better mood, and the boredom factor will probably be about the same.
You can see what they were trying to do with Babel, something along the lines of how weíre all scattered geographically and linguistically, yet still connected in a very real way. A decent enough idea, I suppose, but it doesnít work. Not by a long shot.
First of all - and Iím talking to you, here, pretentious filmmakers - you have to make us like some of the characters if weíre going to care about their stories. Iím not sure thereís a truly likeable character in this entire film, at least not one who has more than 10 minutes of screen time. And I donít trust a movie where nobody ever tells a joke, or where anyone seems to laugh at anything, not to mention that there isnít anything good that ever seems to happen to anyone. As a result, leaving the theater is a combination of wanting to slit your wrists and wanting to kick somebody in the face to get your money back.
Perhaps a better complaint is to say that the filmmakers are taking themselves way too seriously. They really want to get their point across, yet they donít seem to know what that point is. As a result, every potential this film might otherwise have is completely and utterly lost. A Mexican wedding scene, for example, could have been a nice, uplifting and generally tender moment had it not been for the melodramatic and completely out-of-place music that otherwise overwhelmed the segment.
The plot sees four different stories weave in and out of each other Ė a pair of American tourists in Morocco, the goat farming family responsible for one of them getting shot, a couple of American kids hauled to Mexico by their loving nanny, and an absolutely insane, deaf/mute Japanese girl who seriously wants to get laid. Yet, in all of these, there really isnít anything tangible to hold onto anywhere.
Similarly, thereís actually a fair bit of talent within the cast. Gael Garcia Bernal, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett can all hold their own, yet theyíre almost unwatchable in Babel. Not that theyíre guilty of poor acting or anything like that, theyíre simply victims of poor storytelling.
Ultimately, this is a difficult film to watch, and not in the good Requiem for a Dream kind of way. Itís uncomfortable, awkward and boring as hell. Everything that happens is tragic and everything about it is genuinely depressing. Movies donít have to be pure entertainment, but youíve got to have some semblance of being entertaining or youíve simply crafted a pretentious, self-indulgent and stale movie, which this unabashedly is. I mean seriously, if youíre going to tell a sad story about disconnection, there has to be some sort of connection to begin with, or weíre not going to care. Right?
Searching for something good to say, at least Babel looks pretty and certain people might find it admirable that the filmmakers donít steer away from sexuality and even a little drug use but, then again, they donít really tackle the subjects either. Generally, Babel plays off like a somber National Geographic special about sticky situations in different cultures. Which is another way of saying that you donít really care about the characters, donít really form any connection to the stories and generally donít really give a shit about anything.
If this sounds harsh, itís meant to. Babel is too slow to be entertaining, too pointless to be intellectual, too contrived to be poignant and just too damn depressing overall. It documents a certain mentality well enough, I guess, but that doesnít make it succeed Ė not by any standards. In 100 years, this might be an interesting cultural artifact to study. Today, itís simply Ė for lack of a better word Ė bad.