All righty so as mentioned in my previous post, I watched Australia over ten times in these last few days. Not all at once, and I’m still not sure I got all of the scenes in the middle, but enough to feel like I know that movie pretty well now! (*Side note, I have watched the entire thing prior to this. So I am quite qualified to write a review about it, have no fear).
When I watch Baz Luhrmann’s (Moulin Rouge!) ambitious epic Australia I feel like I’m watching two different movies. This is partly because it’s long enough to be two movies, but also because the beginning is so different from the end. I’m glad I stuck with it because it significantly improves (WWII tends to do that) but man it starts off bizarre. It’s so stylized, you feel like you’re watching a crazy cartoon. I mean – take the scene in the car. Nicole Kidman likes cute kangaroo. Cute kangaroo gets shot. Her overly large head, gaping mouth and wild eyes fill the screen. Wow.
Then there’s Nullah, the aboriginal child played by Brandon Walters in his only film to date. It’s like the magic he talks of has swept over you as soon as he comes on screen. And crikey he’s cute.
Nicole Kidman plays Lady Sarah Ashley – a proper, obnoxious English woman – wife of the owner of Far Away Downs in Australia. Upon arriving in Australia, she is awkwardly placed in the care of The Drover, Hugh Jackman. When she finds her husband dead and one of her employers Mr. Fletcher (David Wenham) illegaly working for their major competition King Carney (Bryan Brown), Lady Ashley (affectionately referred to as “Mrs. Boss” by Nullah) is stuck with some nasty business. She must enlist the help of Drover to herd over 1500 cattle before Carney to fulfill a contract with the Australian Army.
The first hour feels like three. Then it takes an LOTR turn during the epic cow herding-ness. Then we have several Gone With the Wind moments during the third hour, lots of almost-deaths, some crying opportunities, explosions, etc. Its strengths lie with Nullah, and the film’s use of our beloved Oz song “Over the Rainbow.” “I sing you to me, Mrs. Boss” he sweetly tells her. The scenery and camerawork are also commendable. Nicole Kidman seems to grow up over night (thank heaven) and when she does she gives a solid performance. Russell Crowe was initially signed to play Drover but in the end Hugh Jackman was a perfect fit for the attractively rugged down-under man. His performance (and looks!) is/are excellent. I must also say that David Wenham makes a great villain (much like his LOTR fictional brother Sean Bean).
I don’t mind long movies – Lord of the Rings, Ben-Hur, Gone With the Wind – so long as it is well paced. (Harry potter 4 & 5 SHOULD have been longer…) It’s basically one of two things: either you happen to notice the time and think, “Wow! I’ve been watching for a while!” or you habitually glance at the clock every five minutes muttering “Goll, isn’t it over yet?” As I said, I didn’t feel this way the entire time with Australia. It lies somewhere in the middle. Some aspects were fantastic (Hugh Jackman) and others were simply too big.
I just wasn’t blown away with this movie. But then again, I watched it ten or so times and I didn’t turn it off. That must count for something. 🙂 6/10