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Movie Reviews Reconsidered

”Moulin Rouge,” ”Fight Club,” and other movies our critics liked more (or less) the second time around

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Moulin Rouge!
Original Grade: B-
Revised Grade A

No review I’ve ever written for EW have I wanted to do over as much as my review of 2001’s Moulin Rouge! I enjoyed some aspects of the movie — like Ewan McGregor crooning ”Your Song” — but I also found it shrill and overly stylized, a jarring jumble of tones and moods. And so I said that and awarded it a B-. About a year later, I saw it again and swooned — for two hours. I thought it was a rapturous modern-musical masterpiece. What changed? On that initial viewing, I thought the opening half hour was so frenzied that, on some level, it froze me out of the movie. The second time, I saw that director Baz Luhrmann was orchestrating a fabulous yin and yang: the cold, dark, inhospitable world and the promise of love that could lift you out of it — but only at moments, like a dream interrupted. The movie was a pop-art tragedy that gazed at an ecstasy just out of reach. Had I connected with Moulin Rouge! that way the first time, it would have been my movie of the year (and a straight A), elbowing aside Memento. Instead, it’s my biggest mistake.

Fight Club
Original Grade: D
Revised Grade: C

In Bruges
Original Grade: C+
Revised Grade: B

King Kong
Original Grade: A
Revised Grade B+

Here’s what hasn’t changed: my opinion, unforgivable to some, that Fight Club (1999) suffers from director David Fincher’s ”twitchily art-directed obsession with filth, degradation, and sadism.” Here’s what’s new: I gave Fight Club a D and called it a ”dumb and brutal shock show of a movie.” And ”dumb” is the wrong word — Fincher is never dumb. So ratchet the grade up to a C. Also, about that C+ I gave the comedy In Bruges (2008)? Well, the filmmaking is still clunky, but the whole thing is funnier the second time. Make it a B. Meanwhile, in the world of overpraise, after another viewing of Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake of King Kong, I flinched at my fevered A-grade review. In my defense, I was working on a tight deadline, immediately following the screening, with Kong-size F/X reverberating in my head. But still: ”The most gifted big-picture artist working today”? ”Ageless, personal storytelling”? Whoa, somebody get me a cool drink — a B+ feels right.