Top critical review
Shakespeare by way of SHOWGIRLS
on February 28, 2016
MOULIN ROUGE seems like one of those movies that you either love or hate, mostly because of Baz Luhrmann's style. I actually don't mind his style that much, having enjoyed AUSTRALIA and, to a lesser degree, THE GREAT GATSBY. Still, I wasn't even ten minutes into this and my head was already spinning. Thankfully, he doesn't keep the visual intensity cranked up to eleven the entire time, but a lot of time was spent in a hyperactive mode that gave me somewhat of a headache, while also laughing at the near-constant absurdity of what I was watching. If I had to describe it, and there are a number of ways to do so, it was like a fever dream or a roller-coaster that is perpetually on a downward course: exhilarating but also exhausting. The plot seemed almost an afterthought, with every romantic cliché of the last 600 years or so being stuffed into a story of tragically doomed romance that was probably old hat when Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet. The acting, from an admittedly impressive roster of talented actors, was so over-the-top that it put primetime soap operas to shame. Just to give one example, John Leguizamo (as Toulouse-Lautrec?) sounded like Elmer Fudd with a lisp. Hopefully they had fun making this because I'd be ashamed to have this on my resume. Anyhow, acting and story aside, MOULIN ROUGE is a rather inventive (if derivative) movie. I would have never thought to set a musical in turn-of-the-century France yet use modern pop songs. The way in which they weave dozens of them in the dialogue is almost comical at times, but it worked for the most part. Where the film really shone, though, was the production design, sets and costumes. Other than paying the actors, this is probably where the most money was lavished, and it showed. Although confined to a few constructed sets, they were gorgeously realized and popping with detail. I don't know how this movie fared at the 2002 Oscars, but it probably got some well-deserved technical awards. Overall, MOULIN ROUGE was rather overwhelming, as if in a constant absinthe-induced delirium partially achieved through rapid-fire editing which gave it the feel of a two-hour music video. Still, Baz Luhrmann's commitment to overdoing every production element has some limited rewards and those are really what makes this worth watching, if only once.