Moulin Rouge Movie Review
Nicole Kidman has finally found her place. After years of standing in her husband's shadow, the sudden breakup of the biggest Hollywood couple might be symbolic of Kidman's venture into the spotlight. Along with Ewan McGregor, she helps carry one of the most ambitious projects to ever be released in wide screen.
But the stars of the show are not what memorize the audience for Moulin Rouge. From the first second you realize that this modern day musical is not going to be your typical Hollywood fare, and especially not for the summer season. Among somewhat entertaining but incredibly dumb and overused films like The Mummy Returns, A Knight's Tale, and Pearl Harbor, Moulin Rouge finds a niche for those who are looking for something incredible, if not a little outlandish.
If this movie doesn't win Oscars for several technical awards, I will be surprised. The visual style is bright, insane, and twisted, fast, viscous, and psychedelic, and most definitely the most risky film I have seen in a long time. The cinematography is extremely well done and unique. The film editing is clever. And the artistry of the film is pretty original.
Many critics have said that Moulin Rouge is too aggressive for its own good - the stuff that is shown on the screen is too original for its own good. Really, they only have a basis to say this for the first fifteen minutes. I cannot say that the first fifteen minutes makes or breaks the movie, because people who I went to the movie with who did not like the first fifteen minutes wound up enjoying the film overall, but probably only about fifty percent of the audience will really enjoy the opening scenes. We are introduced to Ewan McGregor's character as a struggling writer who meets a group of really weird actors, and then eventually to Moulin Rouge, a nightclub, and its star, played by Nicole Kidman. The musical number where she is introduced is extremely crazy, as it blends several songs together and has some of the weirdest film editing and so forth on Earth. I think the director, Baz Luhrmann (kudos, by the way), was high when he made this scene, but the result is a very daring but successful introduction to the weird movie that is going to be witnessed. On the other hand, I can understand how the first fifteen minutes are a little too 'powerful' for some.
After that, the movie really tames itself. The visual style and everything is still daring, and there are still a lot of weird moments to come, but for the most part it is nowhere as extreme as the first fifteen minutes.
The most controversy will lie in Moulin Rouge's visual style, but pretty much everyone should agree that the rest of the movie is quite convincing. Ewan McGregor turns in one of his best performances, and so does Nicole Kidman. McGregor has a strange innocence about him (he believes in love above all other) that works perfectly. Kidman, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. At first, her character is comical in just how flirtatious and prostitute-like she is (she pretty much is a prostitute), but once the romance starts, we really begin to feel for her.
I'd just like to note here that Moulin Rouge does a good job of covering up its somewhat trite ending ('trite' might not be the right word... simply 'common' is better) by announcing what happens in the first few minutes of the film.
In terms of the musical element, Moulin Rouge does a good job of modernizing everything. It knows that a lot of people have turned their backs on musicals and that younger people are not crazy about musicals (including myself), and so it does the smart thing: Incorporate new songs with well-known songs, and even spoof them a little bit. Moulin Rouge is surprisingly funny, which helps keep the audience entertained, and some of the funniest moments come during the songs. At one point, a bunch of old gentleman are singing a portion from a song of Nirvana (mixed in with the right-now popular Lady Marmalade), for example. In the scene where Kidman and McGregor profess their love for each other, they sing segments from about ten different love songs, including one line (guess which one) from that ever-so-popular Whitney Houston Bodyguard soundtrack. Surprisingly, it is not as cheesy as it sounds.
Every once in a while, there are little flaws that show up in the film, but there is really nothing too big to complain about. The group of Bohemian actors that McGregor befriends (or they befriend him, maybe) are a little annoying at times, but by the end of the film they are no where as bad. Sometimes, Moulin Rouge drowns out the seriousness of a scene with a tidbit of comedy, which is annoying. The climax of the film seems a little cheesy, and goes from being quite serious to quite funny in a flash of the eye.
Still, for the most part, Moulin Rouge is an extremely entertaining film. It is funny, but serious when it needs to be, and does a good job of turning popular songs into songs effective for a musical, and introducing new songs that further help the plot. Fox should be commemorated for releasing such an aggressive movie in June, and Luhrmann should be congratulated on putting together what a risky success.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.