Early in the movie Satine, played by Nicole Kidman, wishes she could be a real actor. That sentiment is shared by anyone who has seen any of Kidman's previous movies. But this part is more singing and dancing than acting, and she seems to have found her niche. The plot is old and tired and pretty unnecessary: Will the popular hooker choose the young starving artist or the wealthy benefactor?
It's set in the Moulin Rouge in the 1890s, where the elite meet to participate in bizarre excesses of all sorts. The result is a move that's slightly reminiscent of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but more garish and with less of a plot.
Music of all sorts is tossed in almost randomly. The effect is unsettling at first - it just seems strange hearing 18th century people singing Nirvana. Music from Rogers and Hamerstinen, 10cc, opera, The Beatles, David Bowie, U2, Beck, etc. is all blended together in a hodge-podge that somehow works. The visuals are stunning and fast - if you don't pay attention you'll miss things that flash by once and are never seen again.
This is, at its heart, an old style musical where everything is big and loud and splashy and flashy. After the first half-hour the dialogue nearly vanishes and the rest of the movie is done almost entirely in song. It's not so much a movie as it is a two hour long video that keeps you guessing, keeps you surprised, and keeps you entertained.
© 2002 Dave Hitt