An entertaining romantic drama by Buz Luhrmann, old-Hollywood style.
The movie is set in the Northern Territory of Australia in the years previous to the involvement of Japan in the WW II, and tells the story of Sarah Ashley -an English lady who goes to Australia to try to get her husband back to England and ends becoming the head of their Australian cattle farm-, Drover -an independent free-spirited cattle and horse drover that works for her- and Nullah -a half-caste Aboriginal child who lives in the farm and struggles to live in a world in which he's alien to both blacks and whites.
This is one of those movies that you can say it is done as the movies of the golden era of Hollywood used to be - flashy wonderfully well-looking movie stars, great scenery and great studio settings, detailed recreation of the era's fashion, decoration, atmosphere, etc., , and a simple epic plot with a great love story. Australia has all of this, but also a little bit of corn, a thin plot, weak characters and flaws that are even more noticeable in a super-production like this.
The script is uneven and Manichean (with angels and demons) and mixes several movie genres (romantic comedy, romantic drama, war movie, western movie, and Aboriginal movie) with different degrees of success. The characters are descriptive and without emotional depth, and that affects the acting. However, I loved the depiction of the magic and wisdom of Aboriginal Australians, which is really well presented, with its magic beliefs and philosophical and environmental approach to the world. I think that part is truly genuine and real and reaches the viewer. I also loved that Lady Ashley's character is the one of a true modern woman, as she is a strong-willed free woman, a boss, the boss of her man, a woman who always leads, never submissive or afraid of being alone if she doesn't get what she wants. That's a post-modern woman, so rare to see in cinema nowadays.
The acting is unconvincing on the part of the leading actors. Hugh Jackman's performance is just OK in his role, while Nicole Kidman disappoints in the comic part of the movie, as she seems not to relax when she does so, but she warms up to her usual self when the story becomes more dramatic; she looks beautiful in this movie, like a 50s movie star, although those inflated siliconed lips were a distraction... Jackman and Kidman make a great couple, but their chemistry on camera was nothing memorable and you see yourself seeing two actors playing a couple, not a real couple on screen.
Most supporting actors are good in their roles, especially the Aboriginal ones, who really shine in this film. David Gulpilil is simply terrific, completely believable and inspired in his role of the Aboriginal Elder King George. Brandon Walters, despite his youth, offers a memorable performance, and his face really lights up the screen. Also great is the actor who plays Drove's Aboriginal pal, who also offers a solid performance. They are the ones who really give soul to the movie.
Despite what you might expect, the cinematography is poor. I was expecting the rare beauty of the Northern Territory to be captured by the always stylish and colorful Luhrmann. However, the part of the movie that happens during the dry season is completely opaque and colorless, ugly to watch, while the scenes happening during the rainy season are again limited in colors.To my disenchantment, many of the most colorful and beautiful scenes are digitally created or enhanced, while others seem to have been shot in big studios. Just the Mission island seems to convey that luxurious real feeling of the NT vegetation. Some of the most beautiful bits of the real land, the aerial vistas, look like if they had been taken for a documentary for National Geographic. Where is the emotional connection of the story with the land? In other words, the viewer doesn't go beyond what the eyes see. So, one wonders, why the movie was called Australia and why it was sold as a movie that captured the spirit of this country. To be honest, I thought that most scenes in the movie could have been shot anywhere in the world not in Australia.
The movie is a little too long. Most of the first half an hour could have been removed , condensed or presented in another way to give the non-Aboriginal characters more emotional background and depth. For example, we barely know why Neil Fletcher wants so badly Sarah's farm, and why he's so wicked in general but he loves a lovable sweet good- hearted woman. He is just an archetypal bad-guy, period.
Despite its flaws, I enjoyed the movie, especially the second hour and a half, and that heaven of a man that is Hugh Jackman. God Bless him and his holy body.
6 out of 7 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.