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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have no idea what to make of Australia. It can't possibly be a
serious movie, right? It certainly starts as a camp comedy, then
lurches into a clichéd action romance adventure, before descending into
an attempt at World War Two melodrama and finishing with a dubious
helping of Elgar over a rather uncomfortable attempt at serious social
commentary. Elgar? I mean why? My dictionary defines a farrago as a
confused mixture, a hodgepodge or medley. That sums up Australia
perfectly, a farrago. It has no idea what it wants to be so it attempts
to be everything to everyone and fails at almost all of it. You can
only get away with this stuff if you are really clever and have a well
honed sense of irony and your tongue kept firmly in your cheek.
Australia is neither clever nor ironic enough, which is a pity, because
I loved Moulin Rouge, but after watching The Man with One Noun, The
Drover, send a band of wild horses galloping past the ranch house yet
again for no discernible reason, I turned to my companion and said I
thought Australia might be Bonanza meets Monty Python.
I'm sorry if this sounds cruel, but when this much money is thrown at a movie and it turns out to be this inadequate, I actually feel quite miffed. Had it cost $10M, it might be excusable. At $100M plus, it isn't. I never, ever thought I'd find myself saying this, but Nicole Kidman is probably the best thing in this film, and the reason for that is because Kidman is actually quite good on the camp level (see her in Moulin Rouge or Practical Magic) I have a problem with her as a serious actress (The Hours, Margot at the Wedding.) Had director Baz Luhrmann stuck at the camp tongue in cheek genre, we'd all have been better off. Instead he gets serious and we get a script in which - especially in the second half - every other line of dialog is a grating cliché and competing story threads lead to superficial treatments of what could, taken individually, be quite interesting plots. I will say upfront that I don't blame any of the actors, I think they all did a reasonable job given the material. I get the feeling that Kidman, Jackman, Wenham et al all took a deep breath, tightened their belts, firmed their jaws and said "OK, we've been paid for this, let's give it our best shot." There's an enthusiastic "let's put on the show in the barn" feel to the acting. Or maybe it's me?
The (multiple) stories: there's an aristocratic woman arriving in an alien hot land to take control of a ranch which was her husband's purchase (think Out of Africa but without Meryl Streep). There's a cattle drive across the Outback (again heavily borrowed from Out of Africa) and the criminally wasted diversion into the desert to try and find water, which could, if handled properly, have led to some quite interesting drama. The heroine can't have children (O of A again) and takes up with an attractively roguish man (Robert Redford / Hugh Jackman) while taking on responsibility for the Kikuyu/Aboriginals who inhabit her land because unlike 99.99% of the other white colonizers, she has a conscience - surprise surprise. There are aerial shots of the Australian Outback compare to the aerial shots of the Rift Valley in O of A - there's the pantomime villain Neil Fletcher played by David Wenham (apparently picking up where he left off in The Proposition playing an identical character, called Eden Fletcher is there some significance to the name that a non Australian doesn't get?) then we lurch into the bombing of Darwin and the rescue of the lost children. If there are movie awards for plagiarism, Australia is in the running. It's an understatement to say it lacks originality.
It's also far, far too long, falling into a genre I'm beginning to call the 'Depends' movie, after the adult diapers required to sit through it - especially necessary when you realize that the only really acceptable way to watch Australia is after several drinks. Combine this with CGI which barely attempts to blend into the live action, an almost unbearably cute kid (Brandon Walters is heart melting) plus a cast which features every Australian actor who's graduated drama school since WW2, and what exactly is this movie supposed to be? Even as an advert for the Aussie tourist industry I doubt it works as well as The Proposition, which had better shots of dramatic Outback scenery. And how many visitors go to the Northern Territories to watch cattle droves? If Luhrmann really did edit this down from many more hours of film, then possibly he can re-issue a director's cut which works better. I see it working as a musical, along the lines of Moulin Rouge. The corn is certainly as high as a kangaroo's eye.
I went with a (female) friend who is a Hugh Jackman fan and I will, if cornered, admit to being a closet David Wenham groupie, so we were well primed to enjoy this, two girlies on a Friday night out - probably the target audience. But even Jackman taking his shirt off couldn't save it (and believe me, I've seen other movies where a Jackman shirt removal certainly did save the day.) I have no idea how much they paid David Wenham to make this, but it probably wasn't enough. It's not as bad as their other foray together, Van Helsing, but that's not saying much. And OK, the costumes were pretty. But the rest? Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear
Here is a film that works on multiple levels; thrilling action
adventure, detailed period piece, moving romance, stirring war movie,
and it also continues the resurrection of the western.
As a result, the sum of its vast parts make for a long running film (165 min), yet every minute is filled to the brim with captivating detail.
What Luhrmann does well with Australia is tap into the majestic allure of the outback, and amplifies it. This is no surprise, since he is a master at approaching his material with a fantastical bent, creating truly memorable and often surreal sequences, which Australia provides plenty.
Aboriginal culture and its relationship with nature, in particular, have fuelled Luhrmann's imaginative vision. The heart and soul of Australia lies within the mythology and customs of Australia's indigenous people, and their often tumultuous relationship with European settlers.
This is made flesh in the form of young Nullah, a mixed race Aboriginal boy on the run from the authorities, who want to forcibly remove him from his home, and place him in a "civilised" environment. He is played by Brandon Walters, who is impressive in his debut performance.
With Nullah playing narrator, the viewer is introduced to Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman), an English aristocrat who inherits her late husband's cattle station, which is located in the Northern Australian city of Darwin. Caught in a rivalry with fellow beef exporter King Carney (Bryan Brown), Lady Ashley enlists the services of The Drover (Hugh Jackman) to herd 1500 head of cattle in order to fulfil a contract with the Australian Army.
Both Kidman and Jackman two exceptionally gifted actors who, with the help of Australia, have overcome recent rocky patches in their careers provide noteworthy performances and believable on screen chemistry.
Tall, pale, and thin, Kidman plays regal very well, courting an in full force stiff upper lip, that gives way to several funny moments, while trying to break out of her icy exterior. Of particular mention is her vain attempt to herd cattle; and a woeful rendition of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" to a clearly amused Walters.
Jackman, meanwhile, evokes Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, and Humphrey Bogart to fine effect as the no nonsense, hands on Drover, while also providing eye candy for female viewers.
Supporting roles are superbly fulfilled by top shelf Australian talent: Bryan Brown is effective yet given a disappointing limited amount of screen time; Jack Thompson seems to be gleefully enjoying his role as an alcoholic lawyer; and a scene stealing David Wenham is all evil smirks and nasty attitude as the films key villain.
Yet the most impressive character in Australia has to be its awe inspiring and vibrant landscape, which is captured magnificently by cinematographer Mandy Walker.
Unfortunately, the films use of artificial visual effects does clash with the natural beauty that the outback projects.
Australia is a film which clearly parades its influences on screen. References to The African Queen, Gone with the Wind, and Big Country are particularly notable.
Yet it is no mere carbon copy of the films from decades past. Rather, Australia is an enchanting throwback to an era of film-making which strived to entertain its audiences with dazzling spectacle and melodrama, coupled with a historical snapshot of circa early 1940s Darwin, and all of the beauty and ugliness that comes with it.
This film struggled throughout its epic length to stay upright.
Unfortunately at the end it stumbled and fell like a pile of bricks.
It tried to juggle so much but in the end, it all turned out to be too little. The film starts like a corny slapstick comedy, turns into a romantic fantasy, then into an outback adventure, then into a war movie, a heartfelt drama, a comment on the stolen generation, a comment on racism... etc, etc. It's just too much. Yes, it's supposed to be an epic, but things like this need to be handled with finesse. Unfortunately, it isn't in this case. The themes were too muddled, the script too stretched - it's a mess. The characters are cardboard cutouts, the acting is over the top and cheesy, the pacing is off, the bizarre use of Somewhere Over the Rainbow... It's just a broken film.
Being an Australian, I did hope that this movie would be alright, but it turned out to be almost 3 hours of wankery that disgracefully cost our taxpayers over $40m.
On a more positive note, on the whole it wasn't BORING, and it was aesthetically and aurally pleasing - even though it made use of countless, shameless green screen shots which were simply unnecessary.
There was ONE great scene in the film, and that's when Hugh Jackman and his Aboriginal friend enter the ruined pub. That was absolutely excellent. Too bad the rest of the film couldn't live up to that in the slightest.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Had no idea going in except the few bits of trailers I saw. Was
expecting an epic thriller with a solid story line - instead... you get
all the old stock, trite Australian perceptions.
- sage old Aboriginal grandfather who can listen to the birds sing and tell you when the second coming of Christ will be.
- the painfully cute, half breed boy that can outsmart NASA scientists. - the knock-down, drag-out Aussie bar brawls where everyone emerges 24 hours later as good as new without a scratch after getting smacked 10 times with a cricket bat and beer bottles.
- the jalopy that can carry 10 tons of supplies across 500 miles of blazing desolation without a backfire.
- the old lush that spews pearls of wisdom after falling off every bar stool he sits on.
- the proper English royal dame that can out-ride, out-fight, out-last any grizzled outback veteran.
- the kangaroos that appear out of nowhere in what looks like the middle of the Sahara Desert, and get shot for a delicious high-protein dinner.
- and of course, the chatter about stealing half-breed babies to make them more refined.
I thought this was a comedy 10 minutes in! Maybe it was. I couldn't bear to see the last half. I was ready to tie a cinder block around my neck and jump in the billabong......
Australia is a totally unashamedly romantic adventure film painted on a
We totally enjoyed every minute: it is what cinema can be - stirring, fun, involving - and made us forget the world for nearly three hours.
If Spielberg had made this (And it really looks like he could have) it would be called a masterpiece - Luhrman has done a fantastic job and if it needed reediting then they got it right.
It is fun, big fun, with a real sense of adventure and romance and we loved it.
Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman are well supported by an excellent cast and produce great chemistry.
All in all in a sea of serious films this stands out as being tremendously good entertainment and a marvelous film.
We love it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
OK, I saw Australia back in December, so I'm a little rusty, forgive
the late review. But looking back on this movie and just thinking about
it really did help me in looking at the film and it's story. Australia
was a movie that really tried to be the next Gone With The Wind for the
millennium's audience. While it's a good movie, it definitely wasn't
great and went way over the top. It's a little lengthy in the time and
the writing was a little over done, BUT nevertheless it was still a
good movie. It had terrific sets and was a beautiful setting, it felt
like watching one of the old classic movies that made you feel good.
Well, it was kinda like Titanic with the emotions, you were up, you
were down, you were laughing, you were crying, well you get the idea.
The story is a bit much, so I'm going to do the best I can to give you
a decent summary.
In 1939, Lady Sarah Ashley travels from England to northern Australia to force her philandering husband to sell his faltering Australian cattle station, Faraway Downs. Her husband sends an independent cattle drover , called simply "Drover", to Darwin to transport her to Faraway Downs. Lady Sarah's husband, who has been working hard to sell 1500 head of cattle to the military, is murdered shortly before she arrives. Meanwhile, treacherous FD cattle station manager Neil Fletcher is trying to gain control of Faraway Downs, so that neighboring Lesley 'King' Carney can have a cattle monopoly in the Northern Territory, which will give him negotiating leverage with the Australian army. The childless Lady Sarah is captivated by the young boy Nullah, who was born to an Aboriginal mother and an unknown white father. When Nullah and his mother hide from the white authorities by entering a water tower, his mother drowns. Drover is friendly with the Aborigines, and therefore shunned by many of the other whites in the territory. Lady Sarah and Drover develop a romance, and she gains a new appreciation for the Australian territory. But Carney's men poison all the water sources along the cattle-drive route, so the group risks driving the cattle through the dangerous Never Never desert, which they accomplish with the help of "King George". Two years later, Drover and Lady Sarah have lived together with Nulla. But Drover, who has been quarreling with Lady Sarah and has gone droving apparently never to return, hears that she has been killed in the bombing of Darwin. Drover finds out about Nullah's abduction to Mission Island, and sets out with Magarri and Ivan to rescue Nullah and the other children from the island using a sailboat.
Whew, OK, I hope that summary is a good description of the movie since I haven't watched in a while, but I did the best I could. So in a quick sum up, the movie is worth the watch, for the background, it was worth watching in the theater. But you get the same effect if you watched it at home if you have a big screen TV and surround sound. Nicole and Hugh were a beautiful couple together, they did the best they could for such a lengthy story. But the chemistry was on and the movie did work, I think they just went a little too over the top on trying to make this movie into a classic or some kind of love fest for the Oscars. It's worth the watch, but I'd recommend just watching it at home, I don't think I can sit through a 3 hour movie again in the theaters, I'm really loosing my touch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Australia is a big country with skies and deserts that go on forever. The film of the same name is a big pile of cinematic excrement that should not have even started, let alone been allowed to go on for as long as it does. Baz Luhrmann, possibly the most overrated director in the world, was given $180 million to create this overwrought, schmaltzy garbage starring ice queen Nicole Kidman and bland-as-batsh*t Hugh Jackman. Fancying himself as the reborn David Lean, he went for epic and got Epic Stinker. He throws in the Australian government's disgraceful treatment of its indigenous people, a romance, a cattle drive, the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese, and a subplot involving a little boy with parents of both colors. The result is a mess. The CGI of cattle racing towards their doom is completely unconvincing and the bombing of Darwin, which can only be described as 'Pearl Harbor Lite', is directed with spastic indecision. As a romance, it's a complete failure. As history, it's totally shallow. As social commentary, it's all surface. If Luhrmann is doing anything as a filmmaker (in addition to running his career with one ballet shoe firmly in the closet), he's channeling the spirit of the late, great Liberace with his over-the-top bonanzas of glitter, camp and intolerable clichés. Unlike Liberace, he doesn't know when to stop playing. "Australia", by any measure, is a massive helping of Terrible that would make even dear old Liberace nauseous.
Baz Luhrmann has done a great job with 'Australia'. While cliché's and
political agenda runs rife, this is set nicely into an historic, epic
story in three distinct acts.
Great casting - Hugh Jackman was what the role needed, and he played the role very well. Nicole Kidman, while being rubbished by several critics, appeared somewhat typecast in her role, but that style was exactly what the role needed, and I think she did a great job at pulling it off. However, I think that the standout performances actually came from Brandon Walters (in his first film), Jack Thompson (in a minor role) and David Wenham who brought 'aussie sleaze' to a new level. Unfortunately, I had trouble believing in Ben Mendelsohn's character of Captain Dutton, but seemed to finish on a high, pulling the 'British stiff upper lip' thing fairly well.
Luhrman's epic was long, and had the full gamut of Luhrmanesque style, which we've come to love through his films. Stylised backgrounds, unique, visual approaches, and a sense of humour that is truly Luhrman, flood the film bringing a rich Australian environment.
'Australia' presents to the world, perhaps a very different Australia to what a lot of people think. While the fictional characters and some of the style is very reminiscent of "Gone with the Wind", the historical Darwin during the 'Stolen Generation' era and the impact of World War Two on Australia's doorstep may be a new insite to many.
I enjoyed 'Australia' a lot. While it wasn't the best film I've ever seen, I definitely think it's worth looking at - even if it's just to see what Baz Luhrman has done.
It seems just about right that Baz Luhrman waited seven years after
"Moulin Rouge!" to bring us "Australia". Not because it is a better
movie, but because it's very different and a lot more ambitious. Of
course that this has a downside, and it's fair to say it as soon as
possible: "Australia" is flawed and longer than it should be, and maybe
(just maybe) one day it will be viewed as the dream come true of a man
very much in love with cinema, and-let's not forget-with love.
We shouldn't forget that we're talking about Baz Luhrman, we should know what to expect sometimes. Therefore, if the beginning of this film disappoints you a bit, it's completely understandable. We meet a little boy named Nullah (the very promising Brandon Walters), who talks about races and unnamed countries, about a lady everyone calls Mrs. Boss and the road that got her to Australia and more specifically to a place called Faraway Downs in the company of a man they call the Drover.
Yes, it's all quite confusing, even more when Luhrman throws in a historical context that, I suspect, he doesn't really care much about. But everything is fine because we get to meet the stars of the show. Mrs. Boss is actually called Sarah and is played by Nicole Kidman with the same air and tone of voice she's been giving us the whole decade. Her job ends up being less risky than Hugh Jackman's, who plays this Drover as a successful combination of what he's been giving us since he came into the scene: the action hero, the tough guy, the romantic and sensitive lover and the sexy man who makes women scream.
Maybe I'm not being critical enough, but there's a scene in which the Drover appears dressed up in a suit, clean-shaven I promise you that every women in the theater exhaled. Does this mean something to you? To me, it means that Luhrman's dream is a reality. Three hours of film and not getting tired one minute? Not feeling disgust when listening to cheesy phrases and watching excessively dramatic moments? "Australia" is pure melodrama, and I compliment its director for making it look that way without any shame. The keys can be seen all along the ride: the repetition of clichéd phrases, the intense close-ups, the slow-motion parts of the characters, the epic proportions of David Hirschfelder's score, the establishment of a song that accompanies the characters through their endless journey and the use of narration in places it didn't need to be; the same with some images.
However, the movie is one wonderful image after another (cinematographer Mandy Walker, from Australia-the country-; best of luck with the Oscar nomination you deserve), and it wins the audience like few movies out there these days can, providing delightful entertainment; you may discuss if it does this fairly, or if it cheats and it manipulates. You may also discuss the ambiguous ending.
One more thing. As with any dream, there's a moment in which we wake up; and that moment for Luhrman has to do with believing his picture could get to the race of Best Picture contenders, like his fantastic "Moulin Rouge!". But as I said, this movie is very different from the latter one, and Luhrman is no James Cameron That one really had it the whole way.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This might be the worst movie of 2008. Definitely the most over-blown
of the past few years, and should win quite a few Razzies. I don't know
how any studio exec could read this script and green-light it. And
apparently Kidman and Jackman didn't read the script before signing on,
I knew it was going to be melodramatic and unintentionally funny when the opening epigraph contains the line "a time when romance and adventure were a way of life in Australia," and then the kid starts his inane narration. The only reason I didn't walk out was because I was in a group.
Some of my friends and I had a good time laughing at it, though, especially the gem of a scene near one of the four or five endings. In this scene, Jackman walks to Kidman on the dock just as the mist parts. She requests to journey home, to which he replies "There's no place like it." Classic. That drover is such a romantic renegade, cut from the same cloth as Clark Gable.
And one more thing: Australia is hardly an appropriate title for this grand, cinematic achievement--it should be called "Walkabout" or "He's Going on Walkabout." The word "walkabout" seemed to occur about 10,000 times. If the director had cut out on that redundancy alone, he might have shaved off the extraneous hour and a half of the film.
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