Ewan McGregor is Christian a romantic at heart who moves to the seedy Montmartre district of Paris to become a playwright. He and the raucous bunch of Bohemians he meets which includes artist Toulouse Lautrec (John Leguizamo) develop a stage musical to star the seductively beautiful Satine (Nicole Kidman) a famous courtesan and the Moulin Rouge's principal singer. The minute Christian lays eyes on Satine he's infatuated--and she winds up falling deeply in love with him despite herself. But the evil English duke (Richard Roxburgh) who is funding their show will only do so for a price-he's obsessed with Satine and wants her for himself.
Since much of this story is told via song (modern pop tunes and a few originals) the pressure was on the two leads to carry it off. Rumor has it Heath Ledger and Catherine Zeta-Jones were once the frontrunners for these roles--this movie certainly doesn't suffer without them. Nicole Kidman reveals herself a lovely singer particularly when performing "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" while suspended over the Moulin Rouge audience. Hunky Ewan McGregor as the heartbreakingly honest Christian is truly outstanding with a radiant smile and surprisingly beautiful singing voice to boot (who knew?). John Leguizamo overdoes it a wee bit as does Richard Roxburgh as the Duke but it's all in the crazy-quilt spirit of the film.
A shiny sparkling pinwheel of a production Moulin Rouge might be the most gorgeous movie you'll ever lay eyes upon. The costumes are fabulous (dolled up Nicole Kidman makes them positively breathtaking) as are the fairy tale sets and Goya-esque makeup. Mainstream audiences will likely reject director Baz Luhrmann's irreverence and whimsy; some scenes are overlong some are so swoopily herky-jerky your head spins. But Luhrmann may have done what hasn't been done since The Sound of Music in 1965--created a successful live-action musical one that could reinvent the genre. A gravelly voiced Boho warbles The Police's "Roxanne" as dancers tango; David Bowie does Nat "King" Cole's "Nature Boy"; and you've never seen Madonna's "Like a Virgin" performed quite this way before.