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Moulin Rouge

2001 musical directed by Baz Luhrman, starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor as star-crossed lovers in France.

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Spectacular Spectacular

  • Mar 31, 2002
Pros: Pretty colors induce a euphoric state, Nicole Kidman is in it

Cons: Where or how did they work up the nerve to destroy those great songs?

The Bottom Line: Hey, folks, shut off the music, I'm getting a headache... Wait, did I say that or write that?

Upon my first viewing of Moulin Rouge, I really didn't know what to think. The only thing I knew for sure was that this was a spectacle if there ever was one. There's lots of singing, lots of dancing, great camera work and cinematography, and Nicole Kidman. It was quite festive.

It took me two more viewings to finally see enough of the underbelly to be able to judge it. And for my final analysis, I say it's (drumroll please)... Average.

I'll admit, I was just as impressed with all the fancywork as the next guy. But once you see below that, you see that Moulin Rouge is all flash and not much substance. When all was said and done, all I saw was a virtually incomprehensible, cliche-ridden love story. You have the penniless underdog, the spoiled society rich boy, and the girl. This is a movie that would potentially beat out Lord of the Rings as best picture?

The penniless underdog in this case is Christian (Ewan McGregor), the new kid in town who has come to find fame and fortune as a writer of the bohemian revolution. The girl is Satine (Kidman), aspiring stage actress and star of the great spectacle at the Moulin Rouge nightclub. The spoiled society rich boy is a Duke, who, in return for one night with Satine, will turn her into a real actress by turning the Moulin Rouge into a real theater. When Christian goes to the Moulin Rouge to audition as a writer for Satine, Satine mistakes him for the Duke and takes him to her dressing room (inside an elephant) to seduce him. After about ten minutes of her oversexed yelling and his annoying Hugh Grant-like stuttering, he finally gets her attention by belting out a decent rendition of Elton John's Your Song. After that, she finds out he's not the Duke, at which point the Duke enters and the two of them make the biggest joke in the movie trying to explain themselves. Eventually, the two meet again and fall in love, and soon after she must choose between love and career. But, for reasons unknown, she's also sick, so it doesn't matter what she does anyhow. I'm reasonably certain you can figure this one out for yourselves.

For the first hour or so, I was truly enjoying this thing. It was amusing, despite some truly awful medleys of awful renditions of great songs. You hear Madonna's Material Girl, U2's Pride, and even The Beatles' All You Need is Love get hacked into bite-size pieces, chewed, swallowed, and regurgitated again. And when a chorus line in the beginning performed a little snippet of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, I decided that this film wasn't getting a five star rating. They were all so bad they were good. You also had the dressing room scene, a comprehensible plot, a group of dwarfs, and Nicole Kidman in skimpy lace costumes.

In the second hour, though, you begin to feel the presense of a dark cloud hanging overhead in every scene, as an aura of sadness and tragedy takes over. You have some beyond-bad renditions of Madonna's Like a Virgin and The Police' Roxanne. Satine gets sicker, the Duke finds out about her and Christian and gets angry, and there's a great deal more yelling and crying, especially by Kidman, who, to her credit, has us sympathizing with her the rest of the way through. Then the obligatory "show must go on" finale, in which the Duke makes the obligatory attempt on Christian's life.

So, what we have here is an overambitious attempt at an old-style film musical that can't decide whether it wants to be a lighthearted romantic comedy or a tragedy-of-the-week made-for-TV movie. Obviously, the boys behind the scenes can't boast about this being any kind of a breakthrough film. I didn't hear a single original song throughout the film, either, so director Baz Luhermann (did I get that right? I'm running it off memory here) has a bit of nerve claiming he wrote the thing. And you know, now that I think about it, Moulin Rouge plays out a lot like Luhermann's last film, that awful, awful rendition of William Shakespeares's Romeo and Juliet, from the plot execution to the presentation.

At least he got the cinematography right. Moulin Rouge is overflowing with an unheard-of level of energy because of the Vegas-like bright lights combined with 1890's building and clothing styles, and many of the pseudo tracking shots give the film a Matrix-like feel. The singing and dancing are all done by chorus groups of very happy people, and the combination of the above will make your heart leap out of your chest at some points. Kidman and McGregor are nothing less than spectacular in their parts, and they produce great chemistry together. Kidman more than deserved her long-overdue Oscar nomination, making her tranformation from playgirl to desperate lover believable nd never unlikeable.

Unfortunately, the thrills wear off all too soon. When all is said and done, we're left with an excuse for a group of actors to either have a lot of fun or take a lot of punishment and abuse at the hands of the director, depending on Luhermann's style. It also looks like an excuse for the former Mrs. Tom Cruise to drive her former husband mad with envy.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't at least rent it, though, because the first hour is one of the most unintentionally funny hours in film you will ever see.


Video Occasion: Good Date Movie
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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More Moulin Rouge! reviews
review by . November 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****    I believe the first Baz Luhrmann film that I ever saw was "Romeo + Juliet". I viewed it in an English class after we had finished reading Shakespeare's legendary play on-paper; and we enjoyed that one (the source material) very much. Most people in the class were, however, divided about how good the movie was; the girls seemed to enjoy Luhrmann's vision the most, while the guys - myself included - were in equally distracting states of both disgust and guilty …
review by . January 06, 2006
Hmmm.........Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl. That's basically the plotline of "Moulin Rouge" in a nutshell, but the way Baz Luhrmann interprets this story on screen has to be seen to be believed. Lots of lavish color, movement, sights and sounds explode on the screen like a Toulouse Lautrec painting on acid. Baz has captured all the excitement and decadence of 1800s Paris, given it a modern twist and reinvented the classic movie musicals of days gone by. And the result? A truly unique …
review by . December 15, 2002
This is a wonderful movie. The music, the acting, the drama, what more can you ask for? Nicole Kidman surprised me withe her performance. I admit at first I was a bit skeptical about the movie. But then I saw it adn it was just wonderful. The soundtrack is just as good. The costumes, the setting makes everything so peculiar. The movie is unique and the acting superb.  "All you'll ever need is love"
review by . February 14, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
What are the folks out in tinsel land thinking? Moulin Rouge was awful--yes, just awful, not even worthy of the one star I have given it. Yes, it may be an extravaganza, but what does this word really mean? Is it meant to portray this garish concoction of fin-du-ciecle cabaret pierced with groteseque 21st century sexuality and voiced with the modern songs of Elton John etc. ? The skewed camera angles peeking up the voluminous skirts revealing fish-netted thunder-thighs (Ugh) gave me the frantic, …
review by . April 09, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Most music, most acting, and the costumes     Cons: too loud, too busy, too confusing     The Bottom Line: It is a good love story, there are some unique twists to older songs     When I look at the others, and the credits and awards for this movie I again shake my head and wonder what rock I scurry under to sleep. Beauty? Of course there was beauty – the story of undying love between the head courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman) and …
review by . March 26, 2002
How interesting that a movie such as Moulin Rouge could have such a deeply divided audience - you'll rarely hear anyone say they "liked it," only that they loved it or hated it.Assuming you're even looking at this product and/or its reviews insinuates that you're on the "loved it" camp, so I will skip the obligatory thematic review and skip right to the plusses of the format.The DVD version of the film lives up to expectations, as this was quite a technically stunning film. Lots of work went into …
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Nicholas Croston ()
Ranked #19
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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About this movie



Genre: Music, Musical
Release Date: June 1, 2001
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 2hrs 6min
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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