Moulin Rouge! [retro review]

“All you need is love.”

The Scoop: 2001 PG-13, directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, and John Leguizamo.

Tagline: Truth – Beauty – Freedom – Love

Summary Capsule: Bohemian writer woos dancing superstar… We all wish we had writers like this for our own love lives.

DnaError’s Rating: Boheiman Rhapsody

DnaError’s Review: This is not a movie you watch. This is a movie that grabs you by the molars, swings you around while slam dancing to a techno polka then drops you out the theater without a parachute. The kind of movie Andie would wet her pants over. A dizzying, phantasmagoric MTV opera that used up the thesauruses for the word “stunning.”

I had trouble writing this review, like other people, I couldn’t put into words the movie. There are enough words, of course, melodramatic, frantic, over-the-top, fueled… but nothing fit. I turned to the soundtrack (which I bought a day after seeing it) to try and figure out what the hell I just saw. Moulin Rouge is a musical, but more in the 3 minute Music Video fashion then anything Busgy Berkley dreamed up. Hell, this movie makes him look like a restrained, dour realist. (although it doesn’t mind borrowing from him). Any objections you’ll have to musicals will be shattered by Baz Luhrmann’s take on it, old pop songs are remixed and remade and made to sound completely new. The modern music doesn’t seem off or out of place since everything becomes larger then life, more colorful, more sparkling, more bright and insane when filtered through the movie’s lens. Lets just say this, it takes BALLS to turn the Police’s “Roxanne” into a chest-thumping climax..and even more to make it sound good. It’s a movie about music, how it cuts through all things to hit the emotional core. But, even more importantly, it’s about Love. Love in big neon letters and pink and white petals. The wild, insane love that drives the most youthful of passions, really great sex.

Let me just say that Ewan McGregor is the luckest man alive. First he gets to be a Jedi Knight…Ole’ Ben no less…In Episode One. And here, he gets to get all naked and intimate with Nicole Kidman. Damn you Ewan! DAMN YOU! I can’t stress how perfect Kidman looks here. That ivory skin! Thouse blue eyes. The flaming red hair atop a leggy, more-curves-then-a-curvy-place bod. And she can sing…really well..well enough so that one word pushed past though glossy red lips is enough to melt me into a warm little puddle.

Lastly, let me just finish this before I get my raving all over you, this is NOT a movie for everyone. Particullary people who go into sezuires easily or like movies to be soft and quite. It’s loud and frantic and the editor seems to have downed a few dozzen Mochacenios before getting to work. It’s not perfect, the climax of the movie seems to come 10 mintues before the movie ends, and one song number…a rendetion of “like a Virgin” just comes off as very wrong. However, it’s worth it to see something I’m sure no one has seen without the use of powerful drugs, a musical surrealist movie decked in techicolor dream blasts with enough soundtrack and laughs to kill most people. If none of this makes sense, it will after you see the movie.

Justin’s Rating: Did you know Halls now has strawberry cough drops?

Justin’s Review: Critics have claimed that Moulin Rouge suffers and benefits by throwing so much stuff at you that your senses are overloaded. But, but they do NOT go as far as they should in this film. Where are the dancing monkeys? I mean, they have a midget and that’s cool, but no dancing monkeys! I would have killed to see Nicole Kidman do a tango with an orangutan to the tune of, say, Tubthumping. And for a movie that has so much in terms of visual style, there are NO slo-mo bullet time sequences where Ewan McGregor dodges clichés as the camera revolves around him. Sheesh. I am a JADED movie reviewer, and Hollywood’s got to try harder than this to shock me!

Dancing monkeys or no dancing monkeys, Moulin Rouge does a few things right. For one, it makes Nicole Kidman (who plays somebody-or-another) incredibly sexy and dynomite (after that creepy performance in Eyes Wide Shut), and she proves that she’s an honest-to-God entertainer. She dances, prances, acts, overacts, growls like a puddy cat, and gets her tragic love story. Ewan McGregor (as the “Hopeless Romantic”) only gets to be moody by comparison, but ya gotta respect the kid for a cheeky seduction through mixing every love song ever written and wooing Nikki with it.

Moulin Rouge begins with a vision of what MTV would be if (1) it broadcasted in the 19th century, and (2) had an entire producing team on serious mind-altering drugs. The first section has so little dialogue, and is entirely composed of loud music, sweeping camera shots, and lavish dance numbers. After twenty or so minutes, the film slows down to allow us to catch our breath and assimilate information via on-screen conversations. Even then, we’re in danger of musical numbers ambushing the senses at every turn. Moulin Rouge is essentially a fairy tale story (pauper writer falls for prostitute dance star, and their love must overcome forces that threaten to drive them apart) with a lot of singing. Now, I appreciate good musicals when they have good songs. The musical format was what brought South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut far out of the gutter. I like to be able to sing along and dance in my theater seat and make the people next to me very nervous that I might jump up, grab their hands, and force them to do some swing dancing. Moulin Rouge’s music isn’t original… exactly… since they borrow music from all time periods, from The Sound of Music to Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. But it’s all done with a wild new twist, and there’s something bold and refreshing in that (like a good deoderant).

At the beginning of the movie, I heard some girls behind me talking. “I don’t think the Can-Can is considered classical music,” one of them sniffed. This kind of sums up the feelings everyone will have on the film. A lot of people will pan Moulin Rouge because it isn’t an original, “true” musical, and it makes their hearts start beating irregularly. A lot of other people will hate Moulin Rouge because they won’t know what the heck is going on and can’t understand why people have to sing EVERYthing. But us strange people that can accept something a bit different every now and then… well, I won’t make up your mind for you. But I saw Moulin Rouge and Pearl Harbor on the same day, and all of the movie compliments that I have go all to Ms. Kidman and Mr. McGregor.

PoolMan’s Rating: Now etched into the backs of my eyelids are the words Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and, above all, Love.

PoolMan’s Review:Ah, l’amour. Anyone who knows me well knows I’m a romantic at heart. Sure, I’m a big, mean looking guy with lots of facial hair, but under it all, I know full well I’m a big softy. As much as I kid about girly movies, I appreciate a love story when it’s done right. I love when it draws me in, holds me in its thrall, and makes me believe in what I already know: there’s nothing better than loving someone, and being loved back. Which is exactly why Moulin Rouge touched me so. Cliched, frenetically paced, and clad in glowing neon colours as it may be, this extremely ambitious movie is all heart under its heavily made up exterior.

What makes a romance of any kind a hit is the chemistry of its leads. And there is tremendous chemistry here… Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor are amazing to watch together under the haze of circa-1900 Paris. They play off one another like they’ve known each other forever, and it really jumps off the screen at you. And while I do find Kidman to be a beautiful woman, I found myself more caught up in McGregor’s performance. The role of the hopeless romantic has been done to death in the movies, and yet he finds a way to breath fresh life into the character of Christian. His wide eyed hope, amazing singing, and genuine emotion in the role made the movie for me. (and no, this isn’t actually Clare speaking from Pooly’s email account, I just really want to recognize the talent Ewan shows in this film… he’s got a bright future in front of him)

The senses of the audience are challenged at every turn. From the moment the 20th Century Fox logo comes on screen (complete with the Bohemian Revolutionary conductor frantically leading an invisible orchestra) you know this is going to be something different. The music bucks back and forth in time, from the extremely modern Pink/Christina Aguilera/Li’l Kim combo, to the old Can Can theme, back to Queen, and over to Elton John ( in fact, you hear Elton John’s music so often you half expect to see Christian wearing oversized sequined sunglasses). And it really, really works. Even as the hilariously overdramatic narcoleptic Argentinian (say that three times fast!) breaks into a version of “Roxanne” that’s more growled than it is sung, I found myself just loving the aural experience… it’s truly something to pack almost every song about love EVER into one movie, and have it flow in a believeable way. And the eyes are just as dazzled… there’s so much to look at in this vision of Gay Paris that it’ll take me multiple viewings to get any real hold on it. And during all this sensory overload, I was laughing so much I drew giggles from the girls behind me, and then misting up during the final scenes. (Along with everyone else in the house, mind you.) To have the one-two punch of a wonderful sensory experience combined with the believeable emotional hooks that the actors create makes for one awesome, surreal trip deep into the story.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I loved this movie. Seriously loved it. I’m pretty comfortable saying it’s cracked my top ten favourites list. Despite having an audio track almost entirely made up of recycled music and a story that has been done a thousand times before, Moulin Rouge comes off as sparklingly new and fresh, and not at all derivative. Whether (director) Baz Luhrmann’s picture is going into a shrine in your house or up on the dartboard in your attic, I challenge you not to remember this movie.

Whitney Houston Jr. has entered the room

Intermission!

  • Curtains open at the beginning and close at the end of the movie. And at the bottom of the screen you can see an orchestra conductor. After the final credits roll, the screen flips through the “Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and — above all else — Love” symbols, each rendered in lovely full color.
  • John Leguizamo doesn’t get the most flattering of closeups
  • The Man in the Moon sings backup!
  • Is it just me, or did Ewan McGregor occasionally revert to his natural Scottish accent?
  • Satine’s superlong eyebrows! Yes, eyebrows. PoolMan even checked with his girlfriend, and a good part of them are drawn on, and very long.
  • Filming was halted for two weeks in November 1999 after Nicole Kidman fractured a rib rehearsing a dance routine for the film.
  • The movie was clearly influenced by the successful operas Baz Luhrmann has directed: “La Boheme” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” La Boheme is set in the same time and place as Moulin Rouge, while A Midsummer Night’s Dream used the same Indian theme as Moulin Rouge’s play-within-a-play.

Groovy Quotes

    Christian: The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return.

    Christian: This story is about truth, beauty, freedom; but above all things, this story is about love.

    Zidler: She said you make her feel “like a virgin.”
    Duke of Worcester: Like a… virgin?
    Zidler: Touched for the very first time!

    Toulouse-Lautrec: Christian, you may see me only as a drunken, vice-ridden gnome whose friends are just pimps and girls from the brothels. But I know about art and love, if only because I long for it with every fiber of my being.

    [Before kissing Christian.]
    Satine: You’re going to be bad for business. I can tell.

    Satine: The French are glad to die for love.

    Christian: Suddenly, a narcoleptic Argentinian fell through my ceiling!

    Narcoleptic Argentinian: If you fall in love with a woman who sells her love it will always turn out BAD!

If You Liked This Movie, Try These:

  • Romeo + Juliet
  • The Sound of Music
  • Cabaret
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