I think my friend Becky said it most accurately when she described Baz Luhrmann’s (Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet) latest film, Moulin Rouge! as “trippy.” It’s unlike any musical you’ve ever seen. The songs are unexpected – anything from Elton John to Nirvana (not exactly your typical turn-of-the-twentieth-century music) – and are sure to catch you off guard (at least I wasn’t expecting a chorus of nineteenth-century aristocrats to break out into “Smells like Teen Spirit”). The imagery is fantastic – a circus sideshow full of dizzying scenes and bold colors that will have your head pleasantly spinning for hours.
And there’s a surprise around every corner. You never know what will be next – whether ridiculous, touching, or heart-wrenching. And your tears won’t even get a chance to dry before you start laughing again. Though it’s hard to believe, none of it feels out of place. It all flows perfectly – and it makes perfect sense with the nature of the story.
Moulin Rouge! takes place around the turn of the twentieth century. Christian (Ewan McGregor), an aspiring writer, follows his dream to the Montmatre district of Paris, where he becomes acquainted with a group of bohemian artists who are determined to produce Spectacular Spectacular, an unwritten play that will somehow promote all they believe in – freedom, beauty, truth, and love. They quickly discover Christian’s talent, and he becomes the play’s new writer.
Christian’s new friends send him to the Moulin Rouge – a famous club where the old and wealthy could mingle with the young and exquisite – to promote the play to Satine (Nicole Kidman), the club’s star performer/courtesan. She mistakes Christian for a duke, whom she was to persuade to financially support the club’s latest endeavor – one that will make Satine a real actress. Christian, the penniless playwright, falls in love with Satine and competes with the duke for her heart. It’s a classic love triangle portrayed in a way that’s anything but classic.
If you’re looking for an entertaining evening at home, Moulin Rouge! has everything you could possibly need – music for everyone’s taste, poetry, love, jealousy, hallucinogenic green beverages, and can-canning French harlots. It’s definitely worth every penny you spend on your ticket – and then some.
Ed. Note: Check out Deborah's review of the Moulin Rouge Soundtrack.