Moulin Rouge! - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Moulin Rouge! Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ December 23, 2007
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
October 1, 2012
Moulin Rouge! raises an interesting question: is it possible for a film to be simultaneously a genuine favourite and a guilty pleasure? All attempts to make sense of Baz Luhrmann's musical through reason alone will come to nought, leading us to believe that it can only be enjoyed ironically. And yet the film is so unrelentingly joyous that you would need a heart of stone not to like it with a straight face (well, a grinning straight face at that).

Normally in my reviews I'm able to provide a series of rational arguments for why a film is good or bad, and when I give a film the highest possible rating, those arguments need to be all the more watertight. But while I can point to individual aspects which add to its overall effect, this is a film that goes for the heart (and the jugular) rather than the head. It's fast, fluid, flashy, funny and farcical, all at the same time. All I know for sure is that I love every fibre of its mad and hyperactive being.

Even if you don't like Moulin Rouge! as a story or an experience, you have to admit that there is something brilliant (or at least interesting) in Luhrmann's central conceit. The film has two sources of inspiration: Luhrmann's experience of a Bollywood film while working in India, and the rave and club culture of the 1990s. In creating this film Luhrmann set himself the modest task of trying to capture the high drama and comedy of Bollywood, while also showing how the Bohemian movement at the end of the 19th century mirrors the musical one at the end of the 20th. It's an audacious task, but after Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet, we have come to expect nothing less.

While in lesser hands the film would have been a complete disaster, with Luhrmann we have one thing to guide us through: he believes in the project to the point of utter madness. The Moulin Rouge he gives us has all the characteristics of the rave culture with a 19th-century sensibility. The dancing is aggressive, the drug use is endemic, the costumes are revealing, and the dance floor is a place where men of utterly different backgrounds can freely mingle for as long as their uppers hold out. Luhrmann replicates the intense atmosphere of a club and then garnishes it with lavish period detail, complete with the broader, more melodramatic acting style that was in vogue in the 1890s.

From this point of view, it makes complete sense for the film to be edited hyperactively. You might complain that constantly cutting every few seconds means that we don't get to take in the gorgeous sets or costumes as fully as we would like. But to do this would undercut the spirit of the age which the film is depicting. These are the days of absinthe and the Great Binge, a revolution led by artists who were reckless and impulsive: they were rebelling against the slow, dull pace of aristocratic life which the Duke represents. We are meant to feel like we've entered a trip - and if we feel a little bad coming down, or have a headache afterwards, that's all part of the experience.

Another common criticism, aside from the editing, is the lack of original songs. It is notable that the first musical to be Oscar-nominated for 10 years has only one original song, and 'Come What May' itself was disqualified on a technicality. Indeed, if you were feeling particularly cynical, you could hold Moulin Rouge! to account, not just for the resurgence in musical films like Chicago and Nine, but for the growing trend of musicals which are essentially bad karaoke of pop songs, such as We Will Rock You and Rock of Ages.

Whatever truth may be in this claim, your view on Moulin Rouge! itself will depend largely on your view of jukebox musicals as a whole. They can be simply bad karaoke, like the examples I've mentioned, but they can be good if their songs are used to advance the plot, however bizarrely. You could even argue that all Quentin Tarantino's films are essentially elaborate jukebox musicals, since the music plays such a big part in connecting the various characters and move us from one arc to the next. Certainly no-one complains about Tarantino's lack of original music (well, apart from me).

The song choices in Moulin Rouge! work brilliantly because they are tied to a story which is so far over-the-top that it actually makes a crazy kind of sense. While his contemporary Rob Marshall began his career as a choreographer, Luhrmann's background is in opera: he is used to dealing with stories and character arcs which are simultaneously profound and absurd. In isolation, it might seem ridiculous to have 19th-century dancers gyrating around to 'Lady Marmalade', or Richard Roxburgh and Jim Broadbent dueting on Madonna's 'Like A Virgin'. But like Flash Gordon or The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the film knows how ridiculous it is, and encourages us to embrace it - and once we tumble into its own private Wonderland, everything seems strangely normal.

What we have in Moulin Rouge! is essentially a huge, giddy pantomime, which isn't remotely weighed down by any kind of self-consciousness. We have a series of clearly-drawn, archetypal characters, whose emotional developments are telegraphed to the audience, on the basis that we all know the stories so well that there's no point in pretending otherwise. We know from the start what will happen to Christian and Satine, just as we know who to cheer and boo at when we go to the theatre at Christmas. What holds our attention is how believable the characters are within these ridiculous constraints. Opera's characters will always be somewhat absurd, but if their singers sing the parts well, it doesn't matter.

Once we view Moulin Rouge! in this light, as a pantomime par excellence, we begin to see that all the accusations of the film being pretentious are misplaced. Those who would claim that the film is old hat or in denial are missing the point; it openly embraces the clichés of musicals, and doesn't so much reinvent them or subvert them, as take them past the point of total absurdity until they start making sense all over again. The film may not be radically new in its central story, but it is new in how vividly it chooses to present it. As far as its narrative ambitions go, it is, to coin an oxymoron, bombastically humble.

The love story of Moulin Rouge! bears close resemblance to The Red Shoes. Both stories are seen from the viewpoint of a young, impressionable artist looking to make his way in the world - in Michael Powell's case the composer, in Luhrmann's case the writer. Both fall deeply in love with a talented and conflicted young woman, who has ambitions of escaping her current world. Both become part of a love triangle involving a dark, brooding figure with great power; while Richard Roxburgh isn't as purely intimidating as Anton Walbrook, he fits the bill very nicely. And both stories end in a blend of success, fate and tragedy, with the woman's fate sealing that of the two men: the innocent heart is destroyed, and the guilty heart is further darkened.

But rather than simply feeling like a transliteration of Powell's film, Moulin Rouge! gains an identity of its own through the panache of its performers. Ewan McGregor gives one of his finest performances as Christian: he sings superbly and plays the naïve fool with complete self-belief. Considering how unbelievably charismatic he is here, it's hard to believe that he went straight from this to filming Attack of the Clones (and on the very same sound stage).

Nicole Kidman, who can be brittle and irritating, compliments him beautifully as Satine. She's clearly having immense fun, reflecting the glamour of Golden Age Hollywood while managing to be both playful and insecure. Richard Roxburgh is fantastically entertaining as the Duke, with his every twitch and stifled scream sending you shrieking in laughter. Best of all, however, is Jim Broadbent, whose Harold Ziddler is quite stupendous. He has the hardest part, since his character has one foot in the madness of the Moulin Rouge and the other on the firm ground of the Duke. He balances the two roles brilliantly, and seeing him as the Maharaja is simply to die for.

Moulin Rouge! is a masterpiece of the sublime and the ridiculous. Luhrmann's marriage of lavish visuals and operatic storytelling is immensely striking, pulling you in a world that is so totally absurd that it makes total sense. It is simultaneously the guiltiest of guilty pleasures and the most genuine fun you've had in your entire life. It is the greatest musical of the noughties, and a triumph of epic proportions.
Super Reviewer
½ May 15, 2012
Christian: The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return. 

"This Story Is About Freedom"

Moulin Rouge is a film that I appreciate more than I like. I enjoyed it to an extent, but this really isn't my type of film. I will say it is a lot better than Luhrman's Romeo+ Juliet. This is a hyper visual musical feast for the eyes and ears. There's a lot going on in the background, with amazing sets and stunning visuals. If I was basing this movie purely on art direction, it would be perfect. It's one of the most visually fantastic movies I have ever seen. The film never goes wrong really, I'm just not that huge of a fan of musicals. If you love musicals, this is an absolute must watch. 

At the heart of the film is a love story between a young writer and a courtesan. I love the two performers in the leaden Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. Both are great running around at hyper pace, dancing, and singing. But there's a lot more here than your traditional love story. There's like twelve layers of story going on at any given time. There's so much going on during the film visually, lyrically, symbolically, and structurally that it demands your full attention, and never becomes boring. It's always entertaining and a lot of the time groundbreaking.

Moulin Rouge deserves the praise it has gotten. It may be weird, it may be a bit of a mess; but it is also just one hell of a film experience. It's original in the way it tells its story, and there's really nothing I can say about it that is negative. It's worth a look for sure.
Super Reviewer
½ January 27, 2012
This reminded me of Michel Gondry's playful visionary style (The Science of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), but with a much bigger budget. It is extravagantly silly, fun, and simple-minded, with occasionally-captivating singing performances.
Super Reviewer
½ March 26, 2007
Based on set & costume design alone this is a five star movie but the story doesn't have one original idea and is stretched out to no purpose. Jim Broadbent and John Leguizamo are terrific, Ewan McGregor good but Kidman is as always barely adequate and at times downright awful but at least she can carry a tune.
Super Reviewer
½ August 5, 2010
Finally got a chance to rewatch this, and I loved it even more this time. What a film!...
Super Reviewer
February 21, 2008
A beautiful tale of a courtesan and a poor writer, who fall in love in Paris, the year 1900, and how the music from Elton John, The Beatles, Madonna, and more tell their romantic tale. A must see for those who are fans of Nicole Kidman and may I just say if you don't already love Ewan McGregor, you will after you watch this bittersweet tale of true love.
Super Reviewer
½ June 18, 2008
I don't have much to say....It was good
Super Reviewer
August 3, 2011
Kind of fun, but switched too abruptly from campy parody to maudlin tearjerker, back and forth, and I hate the latter. As well as Ewan McGregor's dreamy, starry-eyed idealism. Ugh.
Super Reviewer
June 15, 2011
One of my favorite movies. Time to watch it again.
Super Reviewer
May 26, 2007
Moulin Rouge is a bit of a mess. It still baffles me why this movie is so popular among the mainstream - it's kind of a naughty version of Glee, with very little stirring emotional content embedded inside - but at least Ewan McGregor is really hot. That's basically the reason why this movie appeals to me so much.
Super Reviewer
August 10, 2007
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return."

A poet falls for a beautiful courtesan whom a jealous duke covets in this stylish musical, with music drawn from familiar 20th century sources.

The first 20 minutes, a kaleidoscopic whirl of colour, sound and zooming cameras, was right over the top, and probably should be avoided by anyone prone to epileptic fits, but once things settle down this is actually a charming pastiche of circus and stagecraft with a delightful soundtrack featuring a pot-pourri of love songs from most of last century. The plot is gossamer-thin, but the two principal romantic performances from Ewan McGregor as Christian and Nicole Kidman as the doomed Satine are powerful and convincing. They are supported by a galaxy of Australian talent, both in front and behind the camera, and there a few good imported performances such as Jim Broadbent as the impresario Zidler, John Leguisamo as Toulouse-Lautrec and Jacek Koman as the Narcoleptic Argentinian.

The musical numbers are a bit chopped about - the MTV cutting style makes a bit difficult to jump in and enjoy at times, but there are some inspired take-offs. Jim Broadbent doing Maddona's `Like a Virgin' as he tries to persuade The Duke (Richard Roxburgh) that's what Satine the courtesan will be like when she gets to his boudoir is hilarious. There is a very athletic production of `Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend' and a nice variation of `The Sound of Music.' The cast do the singing, and sing well.
Super Reviewer
May 2, 2011
Moulin Rouge is possibly my favorite musical of all time. It has such a sad story, some of the best music ever, and a wonderful cast. I think the critic liked a amazing.
Super Reviewer
November 1, 2006
Moulin Rouge! would have been perfect if Baz Luhrmann didn't try to get all comic. The "funny" parts were verging on ridiculous, along with most of the screen time of Jim Broadbent and Richard Roxburgh.

That being said, this film is absolutely breathtaking and innovative. The idea of placing 20th-century hit songs in a 1899 setting is genius, and the casting of two great, attractive actors, as well as phenomenal singers, proved to be the recipe for the success of this movie musical.

Great turns by Nicole Kidman, the underrated Ewan McGregor and John Leguizamo, as well as perfection in technical and aesthetical aspects such as cinematography, editing, costume and set design, choreography, lighting and visual effects.
Movie Monster
Super Reviewer
February 26, 2011
A young poet named Christian (Ewan McGregor) travels to Paris where he helps a group of Bohemians write a stageplay known as "Spectacular Spectacular". Christian and his bohemian pals then decide to cast the Moulin Rogue nightclub singer and courtesan, Satine (Nicole Kidman), as the leading lady in the show. Christian then falls for Satine as they put the show together. However, Satine's owner, The Duke, has plans of his own that can interfere her and Christian's love for each other.

"Moulin Rogue" is one of the most well-crafted, outstandingly performed, and most extravagant films I've ever seen. The first half is more of a comedic, weird and trippy film with music. Once the romance portion begins, the film turns into a very opera-like musical. This works well and is one of the most many wonderful parts of the film. Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman give Oscar-worty performances to their characters. Ewan McGregor adds a lot of realism and likeness in the Christian character and Nicole Kidman is both believable and sexy. The two have excellent chemistry. John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent, and Richard Roxburgh are all amazing co-stars.

Don't expect the movie to have catchy, original, songs. The movie's soundtrack is composed of covers of 80's and 90's pop and rock with the musci rearranged. The music they use go really well with the story. For example, Madonna's classic song, "Material Girl" is sung by the nightclub courtesans. Very good cover indeed. The makeup, costume and production design are phenomenal as well.

Many say you have to be artsy, flamboyant, or even homosexual to enjoy this movie. This is not true. I like artsy things but not a lot. But if you're a fan of musicals like me, you will absolutely fall in love with this after the first viewing. If you're not a fan of musicals, but looking for a good immersive film, this is it right here!

I stated that the film is immersive. It is, my good friend. The film did not need 3D to be immersive, the visuals and design make you feel part of it. The viewing experience is unforgettable. Best viewed at night.

One of the best films of the decade and one of the best I have seen myself!

"We're creatures of the underworld. We can't afford to love."
Super Reviewer
May 12, 2007
There are simply too many aspects of this movie that make me think of its brilliance. It is a visually thrilling film, the music is great and "way up there", the dance numbers are glamorous and the story is brilliant and heartbreaking. It is an understatement to say that the greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.
Super Reviewer
½ May 8, 2008
Brilliant performances from both main actors.
Super Reviewer
December 24, 2007
It took me years to finally getting around to seeing this. A friend of mine spoke highly of it on release, but I never gave myself the opportunity to see it. I'm glad that I waited. This, is at it's most positive, intriguing visual eye candy and (as one would expect) exciting musically. The story itself is not all that interesting (although the fact that it has an unhappy ending I found very refreshing), but it holds your attention enough to see what happens next. I can't say I'd recommend this to everybody. Only those with patience and open minds need apply here.
Super Reviewer
December 13, 2010
A great musical film. The tracks "Come What May", movie version of "Your Song" and "Elephant Love Medley" etc. were absolutely great.
Nicole Kidman was stunningly gorgeous and McGregor excelled in his role too. Certain comic elements looked entirely out of context though, but overall the movie was an absolute spectacle.
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