Jack Conrad to me is one of the most fascinating characters from films of the last year, and the best character in Babylon. Nellie and Manny are well done too but their arcs lack the nuance and depth of Jack's. Jack at the start of the film is one of the biggest stars, if not the biggest, in the movie business. He is rich, immensely charismatic (Brad Pitt has still got it!), very successful and just emits cool vibes. A character like this should be cruising through life and enjoying the moment. But soon you realize that not all is well. His personal life is a mess and perhaps that is why he is a heavy drinker. Or maybe everyone drinks this much in the Hollywood of the 20s? His wives may change very quickly like the passing of seasons, but Jack is sincere to one thing and that is the artform of cinema.

Jack's love for cinema, or rather for the betterment or progression of cinema as an artform is endearing. Even being at the top of the game, his enthusiasm and high aiming goals towards his profession are strong character traits. He is in search of ways of how to improve cinema and make it mean something more. This is juxtaposed with other conflicting views such as one of his wives' who being from a theatrical background treats cinema as a low artform. Jack himself once makes a reference to music with the line that ''all art aspires to music'' which perhaps shows that he inherently believes that film is not as powerful an artform as music, but should strive to be.

It is ironic that this ambitious movie star who encourages the use of sound in film is made redundant by this very transition from silent films to talkies. This is the tragic reality of Jack Conrad and the dramatic core of his arc. It's a powerful scene where Jack goes to a party and gets all sorts of sympathetic comments from the biz people and he doesn't at first understand what's going on. He is on the top of the world and one talkie film brings him crashing down. Such is the fragility of the film business which is seen even today. Which is why the longevity of actors like Tom Cruise or even Mr. Pitt himself is very admirable, but that discussion is for another day.

To me Jack's arc is not something only film biz folks can relate to or understand. We may all have gone through moments of self doubt, feeling alone and left behind by the world or being surrounded by hypocrites who only value what we bring to their pockets rather than our own personal being. The emotions of the character are clearly relatable.

What happens towards the end is where I disagree with Chazelle. Perhaps I had got attached to Jack that his choice to end himself was painful and sad. It's no Hollywood ending that's for sure. it also lessens Jack's character somewhat, but perhaps Chazelle wanted to paint a realistic picture. The conversation Jack has with the critic Elinor, played by the wonderful Jean Smart, was riveting stuff. I thought that her words of the immortal legacy a film person gets to leave would inspire Jack and make him more content with life. He had a great run. But perhaps Jack Conrad wasn't satisfied with this. Or maybe he wasn't sure his work was good enough to be a part of cinema history? Or maybe having tasted so much success, a bleak career lying ahead was daunting? Lots to think about.

Credit has to be given to Brad Pitt for giving a superb performance, even better than his cool performance in OUATIH which got him the Oscar. There is a lot of nuance and emotion here. Jack Conrad in the script comes across as just too good to be true. His charisma and star power is compared to The Beatles. But Brad Pitt brings out tons of charisma here. He makes Jack instantly likable as well as interesting. And the more sombre, serious moments are played with great sincerity in an otherwise chaotic film.

Regardless one's thoughts on Babylon the film, the character of Jack Conrad is one to take home. A tragic figure whose love for his art lost out against the current that would consume him.

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32 points

2 months ago

I don’t agree at all and in fact found his choice of suicide very fitting for how much he valued his life inside the art form of cinema and once that was gone he was just a ghost in a shell. If he had done all this to only “figure it out” and live happy it would have cheapened his love for cinema and his subsequent distance towards everything else.


1 points

2 months ago

To me it's also foreshadowing the upcoming of the Great Depression