As revenge for my movie assignments, another movie came my way. This time, it was Moulin Rouge!, and no, that exclamation point is not because I’m excited about this review. It’s to make sure this movie from 2001 is differentiated from the 1952 and 1938 movies of the same name (without the exclamation point) and I’d rather not disparage a movie I’ve not seen.
Hold on tight, I have words to say about this one.
I want to put it right up front, this movie was not for me. There were many elements of this movie that could have worked, but, like a board game with too many pieces, it was far less than the sum of its parts. I’m going to go through each of those parts that I might have liked, and show how the whole failed to support them, starting with…
As a big fan of 80s music, this movie had a chance to just let me sit back and enjoy it. Everything else aside, I could easily sit and listen to 80s music for two hours and be entertained. So what’s wrong here? There was not a single 80s song in this movie.
Instead, there were pieces of 80s songs that had been sampled, remixed, and rewritten to make them sound more modern. To understand just how discordant this was to me, I’ve supplied a few examples:
- We know you like the Star Wars movies, so we made a Christmas movie with wookies – that’s what you wanted, right? No…
- We know you like pumpkin pie, but we didn’t have sweetened condensed milk or pumpkin, so we made it without – half of pumpkin pie is better than no pumpkin pie, right? NO!
- We know you like board games, but they’re so anachronistic, so instead we want you to play the latest Modern Warfare, it’s what you wanted, but better, right? Nope!
There was one thing though – the movie started with David Bowie’s Nature Boy. The song’s haunting melody as the camera pans across a mostly-black-and-white 1900 Paris was enough to engage me in the film… …Unfortunately, that didn’t last.
Normally, 1900 France is not a draw for me, but, I wanted to be drawn into this. Then… …The rest of the music happened, and I was immediately pulled out of anything resembling the past. This was a case of my being willing to engage in the film, but the director seemingly forbidding such engagement. In this way, it reminds me of Chicago – I had a very similar experience seeing it in the theatre and I came away disliking that play in a similar way.
While the plot was generally standard faire (if a bit too standard), I was on board with it in a way. It’s the kind of thing that I do enjoy from time to time – a simple romance, complicated; an evil villain, tricked; and a plot by friends to keep the couple together. The addition of a disease that will eventually kill our female lead… …This part of the plot was so discordant from the tone of the film that it came across as gaudy. Even though I consciously know this was intentionally in opposition, emotionally it drained the pathos from all of the plot for me.
Instead of a budding romance, it seemed that our leads were merely living an infatuation. Instead of the friends plotting to keep the couple together, they just wanted their fifteen minutes of fame. Instead of an evil villain being tricked, he was just an idiot. And the disease… …The fact that no one told her that it would kill her, and instead let her die so pointlessly. Then, that the movie would not let this tragedy breathe, and instead smothered it with more over-the-top spectacle felt very wrong.
This, to me, was the biggest offense of this movie. This theme that “the greatest thing you’ll ever know is just to love and be loved in return.” was left unsupported by anything but the occasional explicit mention. Did the plot support it? Well, it may have, but that was undermined by the tone. Did the music support it? No, not really. Did the setting support it? I’m not even sure this movie took place in 1900 France. In that sense, I can’t even really say that this is a theme of this movie, so what was the theme of this mess?
To me, it was empty.
So, that’s what I have to say about Moulin Rouge! It’s a mess of a movie, that failed me on almost every element that I sought out. Sure, it wasn’t for me, but was it well executed? Maybe, but only in the short window for which it lived. The contrivances that the director used to make it seem modern, leave it lacking in vision, and ultimately flat after only 15 years.
For these reasons, I can only rate this movie one Airplane! themed handkerchief. There’s no reason to blow your nose on it because every time you may get emotional, just pulling it out jars your senses. The only tragedy here is that I may have enjoyed The Notebook more.