This is a difficult film to rate. Whenever I give a rating purely based on my personal feelings and experience watching the movie, I get guff from the folks whose tastes differ from mine – not simple disagreement, I get plain old guff – but if they had asked me, I could have told them, no, this movie is not for your type. I went to two screeners in a row, one for Moulin and one for Evolution, and the demographics in the theatres were like night and day. The demo they invited to Evolution will not like Moulin Rouge. Me, I loved it. LOVED IT. My companion – LOVED IT. But we already knew we would. You should read this review and decide for yourself – I just don’t want any guff. Folks who prefer David Spade comedies will snicker but it is their loss.
When asked what I thought of the film, I say it was beautiful crazy sexy magical dangerous insane and cool. Rich adjectives all, but not very descriptive. It’s a sort of modern musical, not unlike the sort-of musical of Kenneth Branagh’s Love’s Labor’s Lost (but with much better singing) or Pennies from Heaven in that the songs are pre-existing songs, but here not period-appropriate, which are lyrically meaningful in the story and period (1899) in which they are being used, but also accessible and deliciously, marvelously reconceived to match the tone of the film. (OK, that row of guys in Budweiser T-shirts just walked out – I am narrowing my demographic with every word.)
In other words, yes, Jacek Koman growls a Tom Waits-like “Roxanne” with a tango twist (my very very favorite scene in the whole film, so far), but it works! Pick up the soundtrack album – the songs on there are actually more simplified versions of the dense, luscious orchestrations and mixes that actually take place – it’s like being on some kind of drug to watch this movie, but the drug is music! But there are far more songs, individually and mixed in, in the actual film, and I will be very vexed indeed if I have to be content with the relatively mix-content-free “Because We Can” after seeing what Craig Armstrong did to it in the film. Oh my!
If you are familiar with the flavor of low-end English music hall (greasy, syphilitic chorus girls with wild eyes and flailing limbs), with Cirque du Soleil (imaginative costumes, physical perfection twirling in French surrealism) and Mardi Gras (vital, dangerous, lurid, celebratory, colorful madness in the name of fun), then you have a sense of the scary beauty of the Moulin Rouge as realized in this film. The voice talent is more than adequate, especially Ewan McGregor, wow! Nicole Kidman is no Annie Lennox, but she is certainly not as bad as all I’d read set her up to be. And, as a nice change, she as an actress is nowhere near as chilly as she usually is in films, indeed she’s warm and yet still ethereally beautiful and supernaturally glamorous. Her costumes alone made me wet my pants and cry “mommy!” Jim Broadbent – I knew he was a great actor, but he’s got hidden pipes!
Everyone seems deeply committed to this project, one that is more of a feat of insanity even than Baz Luhrmann’s last film, Romeo + Juliet, which was a marvel of wedding modern sensibilities to the Bard’s language. Here he takes the decadence and innocence of the Belle Epoque and makes it splashy and ambrosial. Have I said enough about the totally kick ass orchestrations? It’s intense, clubby, accessible to young people, yet also big 1980’s Broadway (think of the vast lushness of the Broadway epics like Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera without thinking of the actual shows themselves) – where a small band would do, make it a philharmonic, and mix in Bowie and Nirvana and Elton John and Beck and Nat King Cole and….yowza. It’s visually arresting and musically revitalizing. I’m going to see it again in a couple of days and I have cleared a spot for the DVD and second soundtrack album, yessiree!
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 6/1/01
Time in minutes 126
Director Baz Luhrmann
Studio 20th Century Fox