Moulin Rouge! (2001) - Rotten Tomatoes

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

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AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: A love-it-or-hate-it experience, Moulin Rouge is all style, all giddy, over-the-top spectacle. But it's also daring in its vision and wildly original.

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Movie Info

The third film from pop-music-obsessed director Baz Luhrmann tweaks the conventions of the musical genre by mixing a period romance with anachronistic dialogue and songs in the style of his previous Romeo+Juliet (1996). Ewan McGregor stars as Christian, who leaves behind his bourgeois father during the French belle époque of the late 1890s to seek his fortunes in the bohemian underworld of Montmartre, Paris. Christian meets the absinthe- and alcohol-addicted artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo), who introduces him to a world of sex, drugs, music, theater, and the scandalous dance known as the cancan, all at the Moulin Rouge, a decadent dance hall, brothel, and theater that's the brainchild of Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent). Christian also meets and falls into a tragically doomed romance with the courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman), who becomes the star of the play he's writing, which parallels the couple's romance and utilizes rock music from a century later, including songs by Nirvana, Madonna, the Beatles, and Queen, among others. Loosely based on the opera Orpheus in the Underworld, Moulin Rouge was shown in competition at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi

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Cast

Ewan McGregor
as Christian
John Leguizamo
as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Jim Broadbent
as Harold Zidler
Kylie Minogue
as Green Fairy
Lara Mulcahy
as Mome Fromage
Garry McDonald
as The Doctor
Jacek Koman
as The Unconscious Argentinian
Deobia Oparei
as Le Chocolat
Linal Haft
as Warner
Keith Robinson
as Le Petomane
Peter Whitford
as Stage Manager
Arthur Dignam
as The Father
Jonathan Hardy
as Man in the Moon
Kiruna Stamell
as La Petite Princess
Laszlo Lukas
as Conductor
Anthony Young
as Orchestra Member
Wilson Alcorn
as Audience Member
Kerry Casey
as Audience Member
Peter Collingwood
as Audience Member
Tim Eliott
as Audience Member
Nicole Fantl
as Audience Member
Judy Howard
as Audience Member
Harold Kissin
as Audience Member
Paul Maybury
as Audience Member
Caroline Nahlous
as Audience Member
Scott Peters
as Audience Member
David Whitford
as Audience Member
Judii Eldred
as Female Patron
Ray Chambers
as Fan Bearer
Darrell Dixon
as Fan Bearer
Otto Luppo
as Fan Bearer
Adrian Sicari
as Fan Bearer
Alexander Houle
as Stagehand
Geoffrey Kiem
as Stagehand
Peter Muirhead
as Stagehand
Pat Evans
as Seamstress
Tara Morice
as Prostitute
Daniel Scott
as Absinthe Drinker/Guitarist
Angus Martin
as Pawnbroker
Byron Barriga
as Musician
Waldo Garrido
as Musician
Coralie Eichholtz
as Moulin Rouge Girl No. 1
Jabe Bromhall
as Moulin Rouge Girl No. 2
John Pagan
as Old Crone
Dee Donavan
as Character Rake
Johnny Lockwood
as Character Rake
Don Reid
as Character Rake
Greg Poppleton
as Nervous Nellie
Matt Wilson
as Slave Trader
Veronica Beattie
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Lisa Callingham
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Rosetta Cook
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Fleur Denny
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Kelly Grauer
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Jaclyn Hanson
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Michelle Hopper
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Fallon King
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Wendy McMahon
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Tracie Morley
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Sue-Ellen Shook
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Jenny Wilson
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Luke Alleva
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Andrew Aroustian
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Stephen Colyer
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Steven Grace
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Mark Hodge
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Cameron Mitchell
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Deon Nuku
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Shaun Parker
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Troy Phillips
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Rodney Syaranamual
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Ashley Wallen
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Nathan Wright
as Montmartre Dance Team Member
Susan Black
as Paris Dance Team Member
Nicole Brooks
as Paris Dance Team Member
Danielle Brown
as Paris Dance Team Member
Anastacia Flewin
as Paris Dance Team Member
Fiona Cage
as Paris Dance Team Member
Alex Harrington
as Paris Dance Team Member
Camilla Jakimowicz
as Paris Dance Team Member
Rochelle Jones
as Paris Dance Team Member
Caroline Kaspar
as Paris Dance Team Member
Mandy Liddell
as Paris Dance Team Member
Melanie Mackay
as Paris Dance Team Member
Elise Mann
as Paris Dance Team Member
Charmaine Martin
as Paris Dance Team Member
Michelle Wriggles
as Paris Dance Team Member
Michael Boyd
as Paris Dance Team Member
Lorry D'Ercole
as Paris Dance Team Member
Michael Edge
as Paris Dance Team Member
Glyn Gray
as Paris Dance Team Member
Craig Haines
as Paris Dance Team Member
Stephen Holford
as Paris Dance Team Member
Jamie Jewell
as Paris Dance Team Member
Jason King
as Paris Dance Team Member
Ryan Males
as Paris Dance Team Member
Harlin Martin
as Paris Dance Team Member
Andrew Micallef
as Paris Dance Team Member
Jonathan Schmolzer
as Paris Dance Team Member
Bradley Spargo
as Paris Dance Team Member
Kip Gamblin
as Latin Dancer
Dennis Dowlut
as Cocoliscious Brother
Darren Dowlut
as Cocoliscious Brother
Pina Conti
as La Ko Ka Chau
Joseph 'Pepe' Ashton
as Tobasco Brother
Jordan Ashton
as Tobasco Brother
Marcos Falagan
as Tobasco Brother
Mitchel Falagan
as Tobasco Brother
Chris Mayhew
as Tobasco Brother
Hamish McCann
as Tobasco Brother
Adrien Janssen
as Tobasco Brother
Shaun Holloway
as Tobasco Brother
Scott Gregory
as Stagehand
Brett Praed
as Stagehand
Tony Lynch
as Stagehand
Ian Lind
as Stagehand
Nash Edgerton
as Stagehand
Greg Robinson
as Stagehand
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Critic Reviews for Moulin Rouge!

All Critics (193) | Top Critics (40)

Moulin Rouge is a tour de force of artifice, a dazzling pastiche of musical and visual elements at the service of a blatantly artificial story.

Full Review… | July 6, 2010
Variety
Top Critic

Mr. Luhrmann and his colleagues have worked like whirling dervishes to make the plot look like it's moving.

Full Review… | April 27, 2007
New York Observer
Top Critic

If it lacks the emotional punch of Luhrmann's earlier films, and drags towards the end, it is still great fun.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

[Luhrmann] gives you way too much of what you didn't really want in the first place: soulless high jinks.

January 22, 2002
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic

The net result of all this cinematic whirling, of the "wrong" music and of the parodic plot, is that nothing at all in the film moves us.

June 7, 2001
The New Republic
Top Critic

The film dances; the heart sings.

Full Review… | June 4, 2001
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Moulin Rouge!

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Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

½

THE GREATEST THING YOU'LL EVER LEARN IS JUST TO LOVE AND BE LOVED IN RETURN!

Alice Shen
Alice Shen

Super Reviewer

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.

Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

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