WHAT I LIKED: With characters describing and emphasising every depth and change of their thoughts and feelings through song and dance, the musical is, by definition, an absurdly theatrical and overt way of telling a story. There are many great films which attempt to inject some subtlety and nuance into that format, but Baz Luhrmann's 'Moulin Rouge,' overeggs everything so far that it practically ends up being a rather expert satire above all else.
Drawing on numerous stories (not least those of the same name), it follows a young romantic playwright Christian (Ewan McGregor) travelling to Bohemian Paris in the 1890s, where he becomes involved in an aspiring play "Spectacular, Spectacular," and pitches it to a Cabaret dancer called Satine at the titular club whom he immediately falls in love with (Nicole Kidman). That packs in all the stuff about love and dreams that every musical has, but it's the way it's executed that makes it truly absurd.
Almost every moment - from the characters falling in love, to the jealousy of other interested parties, to the tragedy of a death - is translated through song (often, rather hilariously, through theatrical remixes of famous pop songs). The camera zooms close enough to see every wrinkle as actors swoon, wink, frown, cry and make sudden realisations with the all facial dexterity of your average mime artist. And all the while Luhrmann's sets dazzle and explode around the characters, often very literally taking the form of artificial stage sets rather than tangible surroundings. That makes for a brilliantly humorous satire of the musical; a fact only furthered by the script's tragic farse of an ending which dissects the whole "love conquers all," trope as Satine fakes a break-up to save Christian from the heartbreak of her inevitable death, only for her to tragically wheeze to her demise in their final, romantic make-up moment.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Because it is *ever so very* theatrical in its execution, it lacks much sincerity or nuance to truly engage you on an emotional level, despite the occasional effort from Ewan McGregor.
VERDICT: A very successful satire of the themes and theatricality of the musical, Baz Luhrmann's 'Moulin Rouge,' is fascinating and clever, but, very deliberately, lacking in emotional sincerity.