Throwback Thursday: Moulin Rouge!
Moulin Rouge! (2001) movie review
Dear Evan Hansen opens this weekend, and while we have musicals on the brain, we thought we would take a look back to an admittedly unrelated musical, but one that turned twenty earlier this year. (Also we just watched it…) The Baz Luhrmann written/directed Moulin Rouge! follows a writer/poet who, upon moving to France, falls in love with a dancer of sorts at a high class establishment. However after a jealous but powerful duke sets his eyes on her, the two must begin to choice between love and the well being of them and those around them. Despite a warm critical reception including two Oscar wins out of eight nominations, the film just barely made back its budget in its domestic run, thanks to major releases like Shrek (2001) and three week holdover The Mummy Returns (2001). That said the film was able to triple its budget thanks to overseas gross.
While the first viewing of Luhrmann’s hyper-edited nightmare fuel of flashy visuals and mixtape musical numbers caused us to bail during Jim Broadbent singing Nirvana, the second viewing quickly took my opinions from nausea to enamor. Let’s make something clear: that scene is one of the worst edited scenes I have ever seen in a film. It’s right up there with Liam Neeson hoping a fence! BUT once you get through it, wow this is a wonderful movie! Is it for everyone? Absolutely not. Is if for you? Well let’s talk about it… (Also haven’t you seen this already? It’s twenty years old.)
Now before I get into the usual spiel about performances and whatnot, I should talk about the two things that might turn most people away from this occasional drug-tip: the flashy editing and the music. Would this film be better with original songs? Yeah probably. I think every musical with cover songs would just be original music. That said, Moulin Rouge! does quite well taking its songs, tossing them in a blender, and serving us something both reminiscent of the original pieces with a new taste, texture, and composition. In other words: It’s collage art. Don’t think a collage can take something existing and turn a new meaning from it? Well Moulin Rouge! won’t be very interesting for you. And that’s okay!
Did you know that Moulin Rogue! is a Bollywood play within the film (staged like a play of course) BASED on Bollywood? So the inspiration for the film came from Luhrmann’s time in India, where he apparently fell in love with the colorful, fast-paced musical style in Bollywood films. Knowing that and seeing the story-within-a-story setting that the film focuses on, it becomes apparently self-aware. And all the better for it, as that editing does begin to flow and form the pace of the film perfectly! That said that “Teen Spirit” scene- still one of the worst edited scenes ever.
Moulin Rouge! won Oscars for its costume design and set decoration, both of which were incredibly deserved. Alongside those wins, the film was nominated for Best Picture, Lead Actress, Cinematography, Makeup, Sound, and wouldn’t you know, Editing. And honestly, I think it deserves most of not all of those nominations. The nominations I would add are Ewan McGregor and Jim Broadbent. Now Broadbent won an Oscar that year, so he didn’t really need nominated…
But Ewan McGregor! The man sings his heart out to such an impactful performance that Clone Wars (2008-2020) names Obi-Wan’s love interest Satine after Nicole Kidman’s character from this film. Now you may be thinking, “But what about the other nominees They probably deserved-” Here I would stop you and remind you that this was the year Sean Penn was nominated for I Am Sam (2001). There was room for McGregor…
Anyway, I do have a few gripes. The film can be forgiven for being overly sentimental, but it is a bit long. As good as all the performances are, Richard Roxburgh was on a completely different level f direction where he was told he was acting opposite cartoon animals that kept thwarting his evil plans, meanwhile Kidman and McGregor are selling the drama so well I’d think they were really in love. (Except that scene Kidman is trying to distract Roxburgh. Those comedy scenes only worked in the 40s and 50s… The bloated finale also gets a bit- silly? Attempted murder in public silly, where the story works in tension because it wants it, not because it fits.
But while it is occasionally too hyper to visually follow, complete with a mess of a tone that ruins a few of the supporting performances, Moulin Rouge! is wonderfully charming! The music somehow works its way under your skin to blend seamlessly with the compelling story, lavish production design, and exciting pacing! (Thanks to an excess of cuts.) The performances truly carry the film in the end, as the leads sell the heart of the story that could fall flat without the dedication of Kidman and McGregor. If you haven’t watched Baz Luhrmann’s Oscar winning musical, you should absolutely check it out. Hey maybe you should watch it this weekend instead of Dead Even Hansen… Anyway, 7/10. Good movie!
So Moulin Rouge! Have you seen it? Who are we kidding, you’ve probably seen it… But what did you think? Do you like the blend of cover music and quick cuts, are are you more on the fence? Be sure to leave us a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review and you want to read more like it, please leave a like or a comment and tell us what we should talk about next!
-review by Ryan Prince