Tuesday, November 25, 2008

They Come from a Land Down Under

Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! was such a brilliant mix of sight, sound, and story that I paid to see it three times in the theater. (Really. I thought it was awesome and unlike anything I'd ever seen before.) His latest film, Australia? Not so much. It's a sweeping epic love story set during World War II, and it's consistently a feast for the eyes, but the story just isn't a compelling enough one to make it worth seeing.

In 1939, Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman), a frosty English aristocrat, travels to Australia to take control of a cattle station. She meets a rough-around-the-edges Australian drover (Hugh Jackman), and wouldn't you know it, the Drover melts Ashley's exterior and the two fall in love. Throw in a cute Aboriginal boy who awakens Ashley's maternal instincts and you have the film's basic setup. Luhrmann tells his story using the Outback as his canvas. He uses plenty of wide shots to capture the sense of place, often using some trademark camera tricks to give the stars added luster, and Mandy Walker's cinematography is often really sumptuous. It's clear Luhrmann really loves Kidman and Jackman because they do look great. (No wonder Jackman won the title of People's Sexiest Man Alive.)

But at 165 minutes, Australia is just too much. The whole affair has very little point, other than for Luhrmann, Jackman, and Kidman to show off their homeland. There's too much cutesy-ness (the boy calling Ashley "Mrs. Boss" over and over and over gets really grating, as do the repeated references to The Wizard of Oz). The love story and other aspects of the plot seem too conventional, predictable, and I don't know, there. And basically, despite all the visual flourishes, I just wasn't really engaged in the whole thing. Maybe Baz should have thrown in some remakes of popular pop tunes here too. (Just kidding.) I'm giving Australia a C+.



Blogger Kris W said...

Thanks for sharing this, Martin. I was considering watching it, but I may save my cash now. You're a trustworthy reviewer in my book.

November 25, 2008 4:57 PM  

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