Moulin Rouge! Review

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Moulin Rouge! is a 2001 Hollywood musical that features Ewan Mcgregor and Nicole Kidman in early 20th-century France, where the main attraction is the infamous real-world nightclub known as the Moulin Rouge. Christian (Mcgregor) is trying to get a play shown at the nightclub, and Satine (Kidman) is expecting to meet a duke who will invest in the club. Due to a mix-up, she meets with Christian, and they fall in love. The film was generally positively received, but the academy loved it. It was nominated for eight Oscars, winning two overall. Outside of that, it’s a polarizing film, and upon watching it, it’s not hard to see why. It’s weird, even abrasive to people who aren’t expecting what they’re in for. I wasn’t expecting what I got, but is that bad? Who knows?

This movie’s weirdness almost turned me off entirely. It’s not weird in the way that Swiss Army Man or Eraserhead are, but it’s weird in the way that a distant family member is. You can see why they’re a little off-kilter, but if you give it some time, you may warm up to them. Or you’ll want to be as far away from them as humanly possible. Problem is, it almost feels like this movie is expecting you to be on board from the very beginning, and if you aren’t, it’ll leave you in the dust. It blows by, moving at such a breakneck pace you can hardly prevent your spine from sliding out your rectum. It gets better, sure, but the first forty minutes feel like someone injected you with sloth DNA as a squirrel runs circles around your unprepared body. However, if you decide to persevere, you will find a lot of wonderfully done elements, as well as a lot of questionable decisions, but you’ll never find boredom. The least boring aspect  is the music.

The music samples (or adapts/remixes) around 30 popular songs, including Madonna’s Like a Virgin, U2’s Pride (In the Name of Love,) Kiss’ I Was Made (For Loving You,) Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, and many, many more. If this doesn’t seem like it will work for a film on the eve of the 1900s, you’re only partially right. Most of these choices (surprisingly) work. The most fitting song is easily Elton John’s Your Song, which, when Ewan Mcgregor first sang it, I got goosebumps in places I didn’t know you could get goosebumps. The least fitting is found in a beautiful sequence where the only failing element is the main song choice, the song being The Police’s Roxanne. I’m not calling the sequence bad, because the accompanying score and Ewan Mcgregor’s voice is wonderful enough to redeem it. I found myself describing a great many elements in this film as “wonderful.” The set design, the musical composition, the performance of the actors, the actor’s singing, the costumes, all of these things are wonderful.


There is one MAJOR drawback against this movie, and that is the editing. This is the sole reason for the accelerated pace I touched on earlier. There are innumerable moments where there are upwards of five cuts in the span of two seconds. This, while being jarring and unpleasant, doesn’t ruin the information needed to carry the film. You still get every essential tidbit you need, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I have to like it. The cuts lack rhythm, or any sense of flow, and for a movie with such an emphasis on music, it feels backwards. In addition to this, the film uses many cheesy, outdated techniques, like speeding up the footage, adding cartoony stock sounds to basic movements, and similar things that didn’t really add to the film. These things are far more prevalent in the beginning of the movie. By the end, the worst of these editing misfortunes end, and it gets a whole lot better. So much better, in fact, I found myself mesmerized by the time the credits rolled.

If it weren’t for the editing, I would have absolutely adored this movie. Anyone who knows me (or who has seen me play piano) knows I love La La Land with a good portion of my soul, and this film is similar in genre. A romantic Hollywood musical, except where La La Land was subdued and realistic, this is wild and bombastic. I love seeing different examples of how the same type of movie can work. I just wish the editing had been up to par, because it was the only real problem I had with it aside from a little plot predictability. All-around good movie, but it requires a little patience.


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