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Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh ... see more see more... , Garry McDonald , Jacek Koman , Matthew Whittet , Kerry Walker , Caroline O'Connor , David Wenham , Christine Anu , Natalie Jackson Mendoza , Lara Mulcahy , Kylie Minogue , Carolin O'Connor , Ozzy Osbourne

The third film from pop-music-obsessed director Baz Luhrmann tweaks the conventions of the musical genre by mixing a period romance with anachronistic dialogue and songs in the style of his previous R... read more read more...omeo+Juliet (1996). Ewan McGregor stars as Christian, who leaves behind his bourgeois father during the French belle époque of the late 1890s to seek his fortunes in the bohemian underworld of Montmartre, Paris. Christian meets the absinthe- and alcohol-addicted artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo), who introduces him to a world of sex, drugs, music, theater, and the scandalous dance known as the cancan, all at the Moulin Rouge, a decadent dance hall, brothel, and theater that's the brainchild of Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent). Christian also meets and falls into a tragically doomed romance with the courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman), who becomes the star of the play he's writing, which parallels the couple's romance and utilizes rock music from a century later, including songs by Nirvana, Madonna, the Beatles, and Queen, among others. Loosely based on the opera Orpheus in the Underworld, Moulin Rouge was shown in competition at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi

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90% liked it

502,563 ratings


76% liked it

192 critics

PG-13, 2 hr. 6 min.

Directed by: Baz Luhrmann

Release Date: May 16, 2001

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DVD Release Date: December 18, 2001

Stats: 45,861 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (45,861)

  • November 13, 2013
  • January 3, 2013
  • October 22, 2012
    Moulin Rouge! raises an interesting question: is it possible for a film to be simultaneously a genuine favourite and a guilty pleasure? All attempts to make sense of Baz Luhrmann's musical through reason alone will come to nought, leading us to believe that it can only be enjoyed... read more ironically. And yet the film is so unrelentingly joyous that you would need a heart of stone not to like it with a straight face (well, a grinning straight face at that).

    Normally in my reviews I'm able to provide a series of rational arguments for why a film is good or bad, and when I give a film the highest possible rating, those arguments need to be all the more watertight. But while I can point to individual aspects which add to its overall effect, this is a film that goes for the heart (and the jugular) rather than the head. It's fast, fluid, flashy, funny and farcical, all at the same time. All I know for sure is that I love every fibre of its mad and hyperactive being.

    Even if you don't like Moulin Rouge! as a story or an experience, you have to admit that there is something brilliant (or at least interesting) in Luhrmann's central conceit. The film has two sources of inspiration: Luhrmann's experience of a Bollywood film while working in India, and the rave and club culture of the 1990s. In creating this film Luhrmann set himself the modest task of trying to capture the high drama and comedy of Bollywood, while also showing how the Bohemian movement at the end of the 19th century mirrors the musical one at the end of the 20th. It's an audacious task, but after Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet, we have come to expect nothing less.

    While in lesser hands the film would have been a complete disaster, with Luhrmann we have one thing to guide us through: he believes in the project to the point of utter madness. The Moulin Rouge he gives us has all the characteristics of the rave culture with a 19th-century sensibility. The dancing is aggressive, the drug use is endemic, the costumes are revealing, and the dance floor is a place where men of utterly different backgrounds can freely mingle for as long as their uppers hold out. Luhrmann replicates the intense atmosphere of a club and then garnishes it with lavish period detail, complete with the broader, more melodramatic acting style that was in vogue in the 1890s.

    From this point of view, it makes complete sense for the film to be edited hyperactively. You might complain that constantly cutting every few seconds means that we don't get to take in the gorgeous sets or costumes as fully as we would like. But to do this would undercut the spirit of the age which the film is depicting. These are the days of absinthe and the Great Binge, a revolution led by artists who were reckless and impulsive: they were rebelling against the slow, dull pace of aristocratic life which the Duke represents. We are meant to feel like we've entered a trip - and if we feel a little bad coming down, or have a headache afterwards, that's all part of the experience.

    Another common criticism, aside from the editing, is the lack of original songs. It is notable that the first musical to be Oscar-nominated for 10 years has only one original song, and 'Come What May' itself was disqualified on a technicality. Indeed, if you were feeling particularly cynical, you could hold Moulin Rouge! to account, not just for the resurgence in musical films like Chicago and Nine, but for the growing trend of musicals which are essentially bad karaoke of pop songs, such as We Will Rock You and Rock of Ages.

    Whatever truth may be in this claim, your view on Moulin Rouge! itself will depend largely on your view of jukebox musicals as a whole. They can be simply bad karaoke, like the examples I've mentioned, but they can be good if their songs are used to advance the plot, however bizarrely. You could even argue that all Quentin Tarantino's films are essentially elaborate jukebox musicals, since the music plays such a big part in connecting the various characters and move us from one arc to the next. Certainly no-one complains about Tarantino's lack of original music (well, apart from me).

    The song choices in Moulin Rouge! work brilliantly because they are tied to a story which is so far over-the-top that it actually makes a crazy kind of sense. While his contemporary Rob Marshall began his career as a choreographer, Luhrmann's background is in opera: he is used to dealing with stories and character arcs which are simultaneously profound and absurd. In isolation, it might seem ridiculous to have 19th-century dancers gyrating around to 'Lady Marmalade', or Richard Roxburgh and Jim Broadbent dueting on Madonna's 'Like A Virgin'. But like Flash Gordon or The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the film knows how ridiculous it is, and encourages us to embrace it - and once we tumble into its own private Wonderland, everything seems strangely normal.

    What we have in Moulin Rouge! is essentially a huge, giddy pantomime, which isn't remotely weighed down by any kind of self-consciousness. We have a series of clearly-drawn, archetypal characters, whose emotional developments are telegraphed to the audience, on the basis that we all know the stories so well that there's no point in pretending otherwise. We know from the start what will happen to Christian and Satine, just as we know who to cheer and boo at when we go to the theatre at Christmas. What holds our attention is how believable the characters are within these ridiculous constraints. Opera's characters will always be somewhat absurd, but if their singers sing the parts well, it doesn't matter.

    Once we view Moulin Rouge! in this light, as a pantomime par excellence, we begin to see that all the accusations of the film being pretentious are misplaced. Those who would claim that the film is old hat or in denial are missing the point; it openly embraces the clichés of musicals, and doesn't so much reinvent them or subvert them, as take them past the point of total absurdity until they start making sense all over again. The film may not be radically new in its central story, but it is new in how vividly it chooses to present it. As far as its narrative ambitions go, it is, to coin an oxymoron, bombastically humble.

    The love story of Moulin Rouge! bears close resemblance to The Red Shoes. Both stories are seen from the viewpoint of a young, impressionable artist looking to make his way in the world - in Michael Powell's case the composer, in Luhrmann's case the writer. Both fall deeply in love with a talented and conflicted young woman, who has ambitions of escaping her current world. Both become part of a love triangle involving a dark, brooding figure with great power; while Richard Roxburgh isn't as purely intimidating as Anton Walbrook, he fits the bill very nicely. And both stories end in a blend of success, fate and tragedy, with the woman's fate sealing that of the two men: the innocent heart is destroyed, and the guilty heart is further darkened.

    But rather than simply feeling like a transliteration of Powell's film, Moulin Rouge! gains an identity of its own through the panache of its performers. Ewan McGregor gives one of his finest performances as Christian: he sings superbly and plays the naïve fool with complete self-belief. Considering how unbelievably charismatic he is here, it's hard to believe that he went straight from this to filming Attack of the Clones (and on the very same sound stage).

    Nicole Kidman, who can be brittle and irritating, compliments him beautifully as Satine. She's clearly having immense fun, reflecting the glamour of Golden Age Hollywood while managing to be both playful and insecure. Richard Roxburgh is fantastically entertaining as the Duke, with his every twitch and stifled scream sending you shrieking in laughter. Best of all, however, is Jim Broadbent, whose Harold Ziddler is quite stupendous. He has the hardest part, since his character has one foot in the madness of the Moulin Rouge and the other on the firm ground of the Duke. He balances the two roles brilliantly, and seeing him as the Maharaja is simply to die for.

    Moulin Rouge! is a masterpiece of the sublime and the ridiculous. Luhrmann's marriage of lavish visuals and operatic storytelling is immensely striking, pulling you in a world that is so totally absurd that it makes total sense. It is simultaneously the guiltiest of guilty pleasures and the most genuine fun you've had in your entire life. It is the greatest musical of the noughties, and a triumph of epic proportions.
  • May 15, 2012
    Christian: The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return. 

    "This Story Is About Freedom"

    Moulin Rouge is a film that I appreciate more than I like. I enjoyed it to an extent, but this really isn't my type of film. I will say it is a lot better than... read more Luhrman's Romeo+ Juliet. This is a hyper visual musical feast for the eyes and ears. There's a lot going on in the background, with amazing sets and stunning visuals. If I was basing this movie purely on art direction, it would be perfect. It's one of the most visually fantastic movies I have ever seen. The film never goes wrong really, I'm just not that huge of a fan of musicals. If you love musicals, this is an absolute must watch. 

    At the heart of the film is a love story between a young writer and a courtesan. I love the two performers in the leaden Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. Both are great running around at hyper pace, dancing, and singing. But there's a lot more here than your traditional love story. There's like twelve layers of story going on at any given time. There's so much going on during the film visually, lyrically, symbolically, and structurally that it demands your full attention, and never becomes boring. It's always entertaining and a lot of the time groundbreaking.

    Moulin Rouge deserves the praise it has gotten. It may be weird, it may be a bit of a mess; but it is also just one hell of a film experience. It's original in the way it tells its story, and there's really nothing I can say about it that is negative. It's worth a look for sure.
  • fb1672039553
    February 4, 2012
    This reminded me of Michel Gondry's playful visionary style (The Science of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), but with a much bigger budget. It is extravagantly silly, fun, and simple-minded, with occasionally-captivating singing performances.
  • January 27, 2012
    Based on set & costume design alone this is a five star movie but the story doesn't have one original idea and is stretched out to no purpose. Jim Broadbent and John Leguizamo are terrific, Ewan McGregor good but Kidman is as always barely adequate and at times downright awful bu... read moret at least she can carry a tune.
  • January 13, 2012
    Finally got a chance to rewatch this, and I loved it even more this time. What a film!...
  • December 4, 2011
    A beautiful tale of a courtesan and a poor writer, who fall in love in Paris, the year 1900, and how the music from Elton John, The Beatles, Madonna, and more tell their romantic tale. A must see for those who are fans of Nicole Kidman and may I just say if you don't already love... read more Ewan McGregor, you will after you watch this bittersweet tale of true love.
  • September 18, 2011
    I don't have much to say....It was good
  • fb223580
    August 3, 2011
    Kind of fun, but switched too abruptly from campy parody to maudlin tearjerker, back and forth, and I hate the latter. As well as Ewan McGregor's dreamy, starry-eyed idealism. Ugh.

Critic Reviews

Todd McCarthy
July 6, 2010
Todd McCarthy, Variety

Moulin Rouge is a tour de force of artifice, a dazzling pastiche of musical and visual elements at the service of a blatantly artificial story. Full Review

Andrew Sarris
April 27, 2007
Andrew Sarris, New York Observer

Mr. Luhrmann and his colleagues have worked like whirling dervishes to make the plot look like it's moving. Full Review

Geoff Andrew
February 9, 2006
Geoff Andrew, Time Out

If it lacks the emotional punch of Luhrmann's earlier films, and drags towards the end, it is still great fun. Full Review

Peter Rainer
January 22, 2002
Peter Rainer, New York Magazine/Vulture

[Luhrmann] gives you way too much of what you didn't really want in the first place: soulless high jinks. Full Review

Stanley Kauffmann
June 7, 2001
Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic

The net result of all this cinematic whirling, of the "wrong" music and of the parodic plot, is that nothing at all in the film moves us.

Richard Corliss
June 4, 2001
Richard Corliss, TIME Magazine

The film dances; the heart sings. Full Review

Desson Thomson
June 1, 2001
Desson Thomson, Washington Post

A wonderful postmodern hug of a movie. Full Review

Rita Kempley
June 1, 2001
Rita Kempley, Washington Post

A magnificent mess of a postmodern musical. Full Review

John Zebrowski
June 1, 2001
John Zebrowski, Seattle Times

The colors and songs all come together to form a movie that is like no other before it. Full Review

Edward Guthmann
June 1, 2001
Edward Guthmann, San Francisco Chronicle

So cheeky, aggressive and bursting with vitality that it can't help being annoying and exhilarating at the same time. Full Review

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    • Toulouse-Lautrec: The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.
    • Christian: Luckily! An unconscious Argentinean fell through my roof... He was quickly joined by a dwarf dressed as a nun.
    • Satine: You've got to go on, Christian.
    • Christian: Can't go on without you, though.
    • Christian: You'll be alright. You'll be alright. I know you'll be alright.
    • Christian: I wanted to shut out what Toulouse had said, but he filled me with such doubt. So I returned to the Moulin Rouge one last time.
    • Satine: You promised me you wouldn't be jealous.

Moulin Rouge! : Watch Free on TV

Moulin Rouge! Trivia

  • Which character did Kylie Minogue play in Moulin Rouge?  Answer »
  • True or false, While filming the Moulin Rouge, Nicole Kidman injured herself during one of the dance scenes, and therefore they had to shoot her from the waist up only in some scenes beacause she was in a wheelchair?  Answer »
  • What singer has a song in each of the following films? : The Lion King Almost Famous Moulin Rouge   Answer »
  • What was Ewan McGregor's character's name in Moulin Rouge?  Answer »

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