Lush, extravagant, magical and breath-taking are some of the words that may spring to my mouth when arriving at my opinion of “Moulin Rouge”.
Nicole Kidman stars as the French goddess Satine, who rules the lush can-can club the Moulin Rouge. Her beautiful grace and singing enchants hundreds of male patrons.
One fateful night, a struggling writer named Christian (Ewan McGregor) is asked by a struggling theatre company to present an idea to the influential goddess, Satine. Their idea is a lavish musical that would celebrate the Bohemian passion that dwells in the hearts of Paris. During his meeting with Satine, Christian commits one fatal error, he falls in love with the unattainable goddess.
For Christian to win Satine, he must outwit an evil Duke, unlock Satine’s haunting secret and get out alive. What will finally bring these two star-crossed lovers together and what may tear them apart?
At its very core, “Moulin Rouge” is a very powerful love-story that will overcome you like a wave of emotion.
The melodies and passion from the film’s two leads will allow you to embrace their love with an on-screen passion that probably hasn’t been seen since “Titanic” or “Somewhere In Time”.
For this writer, “Somewhere in Time” is one of the greatest love stories ever captured on celluloid. Like “Somewhere”, Rouge has a hero who falls for a performer much to the astonishment of her manager and has a musical score that will sit with you for years to come.
It’s very hard to describe the passion and beautiful magic that is displayed here. Sure it’s a musical that has huge lavish musical numbers but it’s the quiet songs that are the true magic. The melodies captured in the smaller songs will astonish a lot of movie-goers but may also envelope them. The chemistry of the leads and their duets may just revive the musical for one more encore.
I was swept away by the film’s tender moments but I was dismayed and a little uneasy when seeing the huge musical numbers. It has been a while since I have seen any of the classic musicals of yesteryear or watched the brilliance of Broadway. That could be part of the problem I had with the very loud and grand musical numbers. In some scenes, we have over a hundred dancers dancing as one and all being jolly at the same time. I felt their tone pulled away from the “beautiful torment” of the central love story.
I have seen some stage productions that bring forth the tranquil torment that is a great love-story and embrace it. Andrew Lloyd Wedder’s “Phantom of the Opera” embraced this philosophy and I was enthralled. I was hoping that Moulin Rouge would have followed suit. It is true it would have been a different picture if this angle would have been played out.
Director Baz Luhrmann paints a beautiful canvass that is Paris, circa 1900. His lush costumes, utterly amazing sets and keen eye will pull you into this beautiful but some what haunting world. I absolutely fell in love with the brilliant Elephant house which is Satine’s dressing room and apartment. Her living inside a magical place like that really shows the desire the director is trying to convey in fleshing out the mysterious Satine.
Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of Satine is all encompassing as she gives that role everything she has. This role is by far the greatest thing Nicole has ever done. She is Satine and she is breath-taking. Her vocal range filled the theatre speakers with magic as she greets an impending duet with McGregor. Kidman tends to play down her character’s secret but when it becomes over-coming it will make the audience gasp. Her performance is that good.
Ewan McGregor was a strange casting for such a huge role when I first heard about “Moulin Rouge”. I remembered how awful “A Life Less Ordinary” was and cringed when thinking of an audience believing he could fall for Kidman in a grand musical. After seeing the film and hearing his music played over and over again, I realized just how much magic he did deliver. His voice and how he did grasp the songs was a complete shock. My hat is off to you, Ewan. Another surprising element about McGregor’s performance is that he delivers the word “love” in almost every scene and not for an instant do we not believe that he isn’t saying it from the bottom of his heart.
Aside from the Moulin Rouge owner Harold Zidler, played brilliantly by Jim Broadbent, I found the rest of the cast forgettable. They were used for scenery, humor and tension but little else. This is a blessing and a curse throughout the film. In some scenes, where Satine and Christian are separated you need the musical and dramatic support of the other cast members but I really never felt their full support.
I also found the evil Duke to be more annoying and crude that truly a threat. He would exclaim, “Do you think I am stupid!” and I would always have to agree with him that he was very. This character should have been more menacing. I also felt that his singing could have been better for pealing paint that for entertaining.
“Moulin Rouge” isn’t for everyone but will definitely enthrall real theatre goers and patrons of Broadway. For those of us who aren’t familiar with that atmosphere, I hope “Moulin Rouge” will make us believe in love again and if not, “come what may”.
(4 out of 5)
So Says the Soothsayer.
“The greatest thing we learn is to love and to find that love in return.”
Ewan McGregor, Moulin Rouge, 2001