A few years back when I reviewed 21 Grams, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s first English language film, I complained about it’s unrelentingly grim tone. Life can be terribly sad, but it is not completely devoid of humor and hope. Secretly, I was convinced that Inarritu was on suicide watch and wasn’t allowed around sharp objects.

Now one of the great advantages to being an amateur critic is that I don’t have to see every film. I rarely see horror movies for example-don’t like them. After The Thin Red Line, I excommunicated Terence Malik. That film was so inept and pretentious, I cannot imagine Malik having anything to say to me. Inarritu was down to his last chance.

Like 21 Grams Babel has a multilayered plot, bouncing between storylines and timeframes. The main story concerns an American couple, Richard and Susan, played by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett who take a vacation in Morocco to try and save their marriage. While their tour bus is traveling down a deserted road through the desert, the wife is shot. Everyone assumes a terrorist fired the gun (It becomes an international incident) but it’s actually a kid just fooling around. The second story concerns the couple’s children who are being watched by an illegal immigrant named Amelia, played by Adriana Barraza. Amelia takes the kids down to Mexico to her son’s wedding because she can’t find anyone to watch them. (The parents are stuck in Morocco, remember) And finally there is the rebellious deaf daughter of a Japanese businessman. Her name is Chieko and she is played by Rinko Kikuchi.

Babel is a little easier to follow than 21 Grams. The stories are interconnected but distinct also. In all of them the irony is that the people speaking the same language have more trouble communicating than those speaking different tongues.

The performances are solid throughout. Pitt and Blanchett stand out with a nuanced study of an upper middle class couple trying to get past a tragedy. Barraza is heartbreaking as Amelia, the nanny who watches her carefully constructed almost middle class world fall apart in just a few hours. Rinko Kikuchi gives a convincing portrayal of an angry girl trying to deal with her own tragedy and adolescence at the same time.

The best news is that Innaritu has been talked in from the ledge and is now back on his meds. Babel will never be confused with Mary Poppins, but there are a few rays of hope here and there.

Innaritu gets a reprieve; I’ll see his next film.


0 Responses to “Babel”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

February 2007
« Jan   Mar »

Recent Comments

theotherebert on Black Panther
Mark Anderson on Black Panther
Chuck Ebert on Roman J. Israel, ESQ
Mark Anderson on Roman J. Israel, ESQ
Thomas Van Horne on Spider-Man: Homecoming

Blog Stats

  • 35,986 hits

%d bloggers like this: