Moulin Rouge is a mixed bag, which for Baz Luhrmann is a huge step up. This film is full of contradictions and that is why it appeals to some people but make others run for the hills. (Yes, the ones with the sound of music.) When the film is failing, it’s because it’s too Baz Luhrmann but when it succeeds it’s because it’s very Baz Luhrman.
This is his fairy tale told through popular music. Ewan McGregor is Christian, an oh so talented charmingly bohemian tragically impoverished writer. (Their words.) He knows how to make poetry but he’s never been in love. Through truly insane accidents he joins a small troupe who are working on a new show called Spectacular Spectacular. They want the beautiful Satine (Nicole Kidman) to star in it at the Moulin Rouge.
The Moulin Rouge needs some money. The obsese owner (Jim Broadbent) sets up a meeting for Satine to seduce The Duke (Richard Roxburgh) so he can finance them for life. Through musical conventions, Satine mistakes Christian for The Duke and falls in love after they share a musical number. Realizing her mistake and maintaining her devotion, she pretends to be with the Duke so Christian and his troupe can put on the show.
It’s a fun story especially when it’s intertwined with reimagining of popular songs. In the best sequence, Christian starts to sing Elton John’s “Your Song” to interrupt Satine’s sexual misinterpretation of their meeting. Also the “Elephant Love Medley” is a brilliant and seemless blend of songs. These scenes work because Luhrmann actually cares about what is being said. So the focus is actually on the actors and the lyrics.
When he’s not interested, then the film just falls apart and becomes obnoxious. The first thirty minutes are a chore. It’s so ADD and all over the place it’s impossible to see anything beyond the editing. The Cancan number is so irritating, I’m sure a lot of people haven’t seen past it. During the scenes with hyperkinetic energy, all of the acting just resorts to people screaming random things. That’s actually all John Leguizamo does during this film.
What does end up working, surprisingly, is the core romance. To a point. Satine is a very realized character acted perfectly by Kidman. Christian is two-dimensional but that isn’t a hindrance. The Duke is just the dorky version of the hunter from Jumanji whose presence just feels irratating more than natural. So when the emotions are centered around Satine then it works on all cylinders. Even though the darker parts of the movie feel off because Luhrmann applies the same sorts of heightened ridiculousness to that as he does to young love, it kinda works because Kidman knows how to ground it.
The new Blu-Ray is worth checking out only if you tolerate the style of the movie because there are plenty of featurettes saying how wonderful it is. Since the whole thing needs to be stylish, those don’t even fill the full screen but just a smaller box it creates. There is also a rather annoying piece called A Creative Adventure that tries to combine all of Luhrmann’s films. There’s also a Picture-in-Picture mode and a commentary track by Luhrmann and his collaborators.
Film: 3.5 Yaps
Extras: 2.5 Yaps