Saturday, April 18, 2009

Babel. C+

This sprawling, epic tale from director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is obviously aiming at something great, but in doing so, it tries too hard, and ends up being no more than mediocre. Like his previous films, 'Amores Perros' and '21 Grams,' 'Babel' takes several stories that have seemingly no relation and then links them together. These stories include two Americans (played by Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt) who are traveling in Morocco, a poor Moroccan family, a struggling deaf girl and her father in Japan, and two American children who are taken to a Mexican wedding by their housekeeper. Now it seems that these stories would never have any sort of connection, especially the one in Japan, but Inarritu manages to weave them together quite smoothly. 'Babel' is about how certain events are misunderstood. It also deals with racial prejudice and immigration. It has some solid performances, though none of them stood out as great (Blanchett only actually has one scene of real dialogue in the movie, and even then she doesn't say much). So why does the film not work? For one, it is difficult to watch. This is a disturbing movie, and hard on the eyes, especially the scenes in Japan (there is actually one scene in a disco that literally hurt my eyes due to the flashing lights). But most of all, the film weaves together these stories on an epic scale, only none of them really offer a profound effect. None of these characters have serious choices to make. All of the events happen out of mere chance, making the movie seem almost unrealistic. I appreciate these movies that try to convey messages through a chain of connecting events (we had the same thing with 2005's 'Crash') but I prefer the ones that take a smaller approach, such as 'Gran Torino' or 'The Visitor.' One has to admire the locations and the effort put into 'Babel,' but the result does not give the power it set out to give.

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