A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Moulin Rouge is the 2001 bombastic remake of the 1952 movie. Although the film, on paper, sounds a bit too mature for even teens (seduction and obfuscation are employed to raise money for a club), it's really quite a tender love story -- though there is plenty of sexual innuendo -- and a sweet message about the power of love. Characters frequently drink absinthe as well as various types of alcohol. There are references to prostitution. One of the characters is referred to in a disparaging manner as "the Jew." Overall, this is a hate-it-or-love-it movie: Where some see endless self-indulgence and ostentation, others see nonstop vivid entertainment of the kind guaranteed to make viewers temporarily forget the drab realities of day-to-day life.
What's the story?
Set in late-1800s Paris, MOULIN ROUGE begins in a garret, where a visibly heartbroken poet, Christian (Ewan McGregor), sits at his typewriter, pecking out what is essentially the film's premise: The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return. Rewind to the past, when Christian believed in love but had never been in love. Wide-eyed and full of hope, he's recruited by a group of bohemians led by the artist Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo) to write a spectacular show for the Moulin Rouge. But first he must persuade Satine (Nicole Kidman), the Moulin Rouge's hot-blooded, cool-eyed courtesan, to agree. Eventually, they fall in love. But Satine's mission is to seduce a rich duke (Richard Roxburgh) so he can finance the Moulin Rouge. If he finds out she loves another, their entire enterprise is doomed. Worse, Satine is suffering from mysterious blackouts.
Is it any good?
MOULIN ROUGE is that kind of movie that divides viewers into two distinct camps: Those who love it and those who don't. It almost doesn't matter, however. Because no matter how moving or maddening it may be, depending on which side of the argument you're on, this refreshingly modern musical is memorable and fascinating.
In the hands of another director, the story would have probably marched on in a fairly typical fashion. But this is Baz Luhrmann territory, which means kinetic camerawork, quick cuts, color-saturated tableaus, and lots and lots of music. In places, it overwhelms the senses and seems overdone. But the chemistry between MacGregor and Kidman is unmistakable and their voices not half-bad. In the end, all this pageantry and ballad-belting enthusiasm pays off. Though it may not be everyone's cup of tea, Moulin Rouge is creative, daring, and original.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Satine enjoys her job as a courtesan (or if she actually does). Can anyone really be happy pursuing fame using one's physical charms? What attracts her to Christian and vice versa? Why is Hollywood enamored of opposites-attract themes? Are Satine and Christian truly destined for each other?
What were some of the ways in which the movie went beyond its 1899 setting, especially in terms of music?
How does this movie exemplify the idea of "entertainment for entertainment's sake"? What are the many ways in which this movie seeks to provide escape from reality rather than an attempt to imitate or depict reality?
- In theaters: May 16, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: January 14, 2003
- Cast: Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo, Nicole Kidman
- Director: Baz Luhrmann
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Musical
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Misfits and Underdogs, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 127 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: for sexual content.
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