A Green Fairytale
I was given the opportunity to watch "Moulin Rouge!" back in 2001 and that was an offer which included not just free tickets but also a free meal from an attractive woman. Despite the attractiveness I turned her down or at least persuaded her to watch a different movie because I feared I would hate Baz Luhrmann's modern musical. Over a decade later and my fears were proved right as I really don't like "Moulin Rouge!" but then I am the sort of movie fan who prefers substance over style and Luhrmann's musical is most certainly the other way around; style over substance. It is also a modern musical made to appeal to a modern trend of treating audiences as if they have ADHD as not only is it a visually luscious production featuring contemporary music but it is so full of edits, bright colours and loud noises that it is head ache inducing. There is no denying that Luhrmann has set out to create a vibrant modern musical and succeeded but it most certainly isn't for everyone and those like me who cherish the musicals of a bygone era will most likely find "Moulin Rouge!" painful.
Having left England to experience the Bohemian lifestyle of Paris, writer Christian (Ewan McGregor - Rogue Trader) meets Toulouse Lautrec (John Leguizamo) when a narcoleptic Argentinean falls through his roof and quickly Lautrec is enchanted by Christian's writing. With a plan to stage a play at the famed Moulin Rouge he takes Christian to a show where he is instantly smitten with courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman - Eyes Wide Shut) who too his surprise takes a shine to him. But there is trouble afoot as Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent), owner of the club wants Satine to court The Duke (Richard Roxburgh) because of what his wealth would mean to his club.
There is more to "Moulin Rouge!" than that and in fairness writers Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce have crafted a slim but energetic romantic storyline. Is it a great romantic storyline, not in my books as it is too slim and pays second fiddle to the movies look but the writing is good. There is an eccentricity to the writing with plenty of witty writing which takes it off on numerous crazy, tangents. On the subject of which the inclusion of countless contemporary songs often sung by the unlikeliest of people such as Jim Broadbent singing "Like a Virgin" are sometimes quite amusing.
But here is the thing which not just prevents me from enjoying "Moulin Rouge!" but also disliking it' it is the fact that it is style over substance. Now the sets are great, the costumes are good and whilst some of the musical numbers are torturous many of them are entertaining. But the constant editing, the splashes of colour, the general relentless energy and a lot more does my head in, quite literally as I finished watching with a headache. I know some audiences will think this is great and love the frenetic styling which is in a state of constant change but I guess I am far more traditional when it comes to what I like from a musical. Don't get me wrong as when it stops to take a breath and deliver a slower number "Moulin Rouge!" grabs me in its beauty but far too often it pushed me away due to Luhrmann's aggressive styling.
Despite all this I do appreciate what a visual spectacle Luhrmann has created, none more so than a scene featuring Nicole Kidman emerging from her room to show that the building is in the shape of a giant elephant. And in fairness the performances throughout be it Ewan McGregor doing loved up to Nicole Kidman giving Santine just a touch of Marilyn Monroe work. Both are outshone by Jim Broadbent whose full on over the top performance is eye catching.
What this all boils down to is that "Moulin Rouge!" is not for me as whilst it is clever and amusingly combines so many contemporary songs into a lavish production the general styling and endless need to cut again and again is not for me and spoils what could have been a great modern musical.