“Australia”

OK, let me start by saying that Christine and I were huge fans of Baz Luhrmann’s last movie “Moulin Rouge!”. The music, that crazy dramatic story, Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman singing in a giant elephant, what’s not to love? Almost any way you look at it, the movie kicked ass.

AUSTRALIA #1

So, when we went to a WGA screening of Luhrmann’s latest widescreen epic, “Australia”, on Friday night, we had pretty high hopes. Unfortunately, the movie did not deliver on many of them. It’s not that “Australia” is bad, because it’s not, in fact there are some really cool things in it, but overall the movie is a bit too bloated for it’s own good.

The biggest problem for me was that in trying to recreate his favorite sweeping epics from the past — “Out of Africa”, “Gone With The Wind”, “Giant”, etc. — Luhrmann lost sight of the things he does best. And though he infuses the film with plenty of crazy camera angles and editing, and his patented love-it-or-hate-it slapstick humor is all over the place, the movie as a whole is shockingly conventional. And for someone with Luhrmann’s unique talents, that is very disappointing indeed.

And though much of the dialog is extremely cheesy and almost painfully corny in spots — the first half hour of the movie is so obnoxious that we almost walked out, seriously, it’s mind-numbingly lame! — the movie has some very cool scenes, and stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman have never looked better.

AUSTRALIA #2

AUSTRALIA #3

In fact, they look so good that it’s kind of distracting. Kidman is at her shiny, china doll prettiest in this movie, which is cool, but a bit hard to swallow when she’s supposedly out there wrangling cattle in the outback. And Jackman’s costumes are so fetishized in some scenes that it’s almost laughable.

I mean, really, what self-respecting Aussie drover would be caught dead in those tight-ass, low rise jeans? And in 1939? Please! I get it, I mean, Jackman is hot and rugged and all that, but wow, there are so many shots of his enormous package and bounce-a-quarter off it ass that you’d think Tom of Finland was Luhrmann’s co-director. It was kind of crazy…

But all that said, the cattle drive portion in the middle of the movie is really cool and totally unique and the Aboriginal child actor who plays Nullah, newcomer Brandon Walters, was also pretty fantastic. And his narration, though difficult to understand in spots, definitely ads to the impact of the movie.

So, overall, not a great film, but definitely not the worst movie you could see this Thanksgiving weekend. And if you like your movies big, loud, and packed with Aussie stereotypes — seriously, Jackman says “crikey” so many times it’s like he’s channeling Steve Irwin or something — “Australia” is the movie for you.

AUSTRALIA #4

AUSTRALIA #5

After the movie, we stayed for a brief Q & A with Luhrmann and one of his co-writers, Stuart Beattie (“Collateral”) which was interesting, but totally dominated by Luhrmann’s strange ramblings. He was cool, but, wow, kind of a nutter if you ask me. Let’s just say I can see why he burned through three co-writers on this movie…yikes.

That said, I was a bit bummed that they cut the Q & A short because I wanted to ask about the rumor that they shot seven different endings for the movie (yep, you heard me, seven!) but seeing as the film itself was over two and a half hours long, I understood the moderator’s need to move things along.

Plus, after sitting in that theatre with a bunch of sweaty screenwriters for over three hours, crikey, even I was ready to go home! Whew…

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9 Comments

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9 responses to ““Australia”

  1. laceywilson

    I read an article in the Washington Post today and it stated that Forbes Magazine ranked Nicole Kidman as its number 1 over-paid actor this year. How can it be that she continues to receive millions of dollars for films that flop? I think she should take a break and concentrate on raising Keith Urban’s baby girl. For more info on Keith Urban, visit my blog at laceywilson.wordpress.com.

    Lacey Wilson

  2. Thanks for checking out our blog, Lacey! I agree, Kidman has chosen some real clunkers over the years, but what I really dig about her is that she’ll try anything. Sure, sometimes she tanks, but she is nothing if not daring…and there are not a lot of actors like that in Hollywood right now.

    I think people would hate her a whole lot less if she wasn’t paid so much. But then I can think of a tons of other actors who are grossly overpaid too…so, I dunno… 🙂

  3. I like that part at the end where Hugh Jackman learns the paso doble.

  4. Wow, dude is that a “Strictly Ballroom” reference? That’s as timely as maybe a Hugh Jackman “Kate & Leopold” joke or something…yikes! 😦

  5. Sarah

    Well Hugh Jackman is sexy so I will try to sit and watch anything that he is in. While talking about epic love stories, we all know that Gone with the Wind has to be in the list somewhere whether it is your favorite or not. I wish that Australia could have lived up to those expectations because I like both Kidman and Jackman but it doesn’t look like they did. Here is a post that I ran across on Petermans Eye. Talks about the epics throughout time, take a look!

    http://www.petermanseye.com/curiosities/news/405-tomorrow-is-another-day

  6. Oh, man…I WISH that this movie was even a little bit as good as “Gone With The Wind”. Not only is that one of the best movies ever made, and one of my all-time favorites, but, “GWTW” actually has the power to heal. Seriously!

    When we were younger, my brother had the worst cold ever, fever, chills, the works…and I dragged him to see “GWTW” on a big screen in Atlanta, Georgia and as soon as it started, his illness was gone. I’m totally serious…the movie healed him! That’s how good it is!!

    Sadly, the only thing “Australia” could probably cure is insomnia… 😦

  7. That’s funny, because I can think of another movie that you and your brother went to see that also cures people.

    The movie was Old Gringo, and it totally cured you guys of good taste! 🙂

  8. Ha! I still stand by my love of “Old Gringo”. That was, however, my one and only viewing of that Jane Fonda/Jimmy Smits classic, so I can’t say for sure that I would have the same zest for it now…but, at the time, man alive, I was under that movie’s spell!!

  9. MCP2012

    With all due respect, I can’t concur with your review. The acting and direction are good, the writing good, the cinematography quite good and the editing reasonably good (as is the musical score). And Brandon Walters, as Nullah, steals virtually every scene he’s in (which is most). I was appalled he didn’t get an Oscar nod (nomination) for Best Supporting Actor.

    I think, with time, this movie will be seen as a classic. Aussie Cinema has come of age (and the American Academy [narcissistic echo chamber that it tends to be] doesn’t know [yet] quite what to do with it…

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