Babbling about Babel
I am of two minds regarding Babel. Part of me wants to praise its seriousness and ambition. Another part of me wanted to scream at it for being so forcefully and needlessly depressing.
I was truly impressed (for the most part) with the film's performances, cinematography, editing, and music, and I appreciated the global nature of the story. Adriana Barazza in particular gives a beautifully lived-in turn, and I'm a sucker for Santaolalla. Overall, I found the film quite moving. But I have to ask (SPOILERS):
Would any little kids REALLY shoot bullets at a bus so unthinkingly?
Would any good housekeeper REALLY take kids out of the country without their parents' permission AND THEN drive back into the country with someone who'd been drinking, and who clearly has a short fuse?
Would said person REALLY speed away from border patrollers, and with kids in the car? I mean, hello, stupid.
Would a deaf-mute Japanese girl REALLY go around flashing her dentist and other strangers, just because she felt lonely?
And also, was I missing something about the balcony thing at the end? I might just be stupid, but why did Rinko tell a story different from what actually happened? I hope it wasn't just so the film could close on that shot of the skyline.
Anyway, some of these questions are really too difficult to ignore. I'm generally one for allowing huge coincidences in films - I had no problem with the sequence of "oh sheesh" problems encountered by the Little Miss Sunshine gang - but I am given pause when so many characters make such unfathomably stupid decisions. Coincidental is one thing; impossibly stupid is another. And when people behave that stupidly, it makes it hard for me to sympathize with them.
That said, the actors generally did such a great job carrying it off that it wasn't that big of a problem. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett's lack of chemistry aside, the cast as a whole did a great job. Which is why I think the film largely worked.
Still, I didn't feel the kind of catharsis that would've made the trip to hell and back totally worth it, so it's hard for me to wholeheartedly recommend this one, much less call it a "great film." Others may love it and think it award-worthy, and I take no issue with that; it is serious, ambitious, and well-made. But I saw enough flaws and felt distant enough from the characters to think Babel merely "pretty good."
Verdict: "Sober and serious... to a fault."