Oh boy, Baz. You may have got Nicole Kidman to jump on your train, but you’ll never get me. I must believe that somehow Hugh Jackman got shanghai-ed into this too, and it’s a shame. This sort of manipulative emotionalism is what gives film (and most likely Oscar) a bad name.
Australia is directed by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet), who co-penned the script with a slew of other people. Based on his past few films, you’d think Kidman would play a fairy off a bottle of Absinthe, and Jackman might be play a midget on acid. But this isn’t the spaztastic Luhrmann of old, this is a straight up attempt at an epic. Kidman plays Sarah, an English aristocrat that goes to Oz to convince her husband to sell a cattle station they own in northern Australia and to come home. But when she gets there, she meets hunky Dover (jackman) who rattles the lady right out of Sarah, and gets her swooning over his soaped up, rippled body in the moonlight. Sarah’s husband is killed by aboriginal savages, and she quasi-adopts a ‘creamy’ (what the love children between white men and aboriginal women are named), this is the catalyst for a whole bunch of adventure! Then it’s up to Sarah to rattle the cowboy right out of Dover so they can all, hopefully, end up a happy family. But then WWII stands in their way. And the Catholics.
I dry heaved a little writing that. It sounds like a soap opera, even though it’s slightly better than one. Remember how Michael Bay thought Pearl Harbor was his ticket to the Academy’s…? I don’t want to be too dramatic, but Baz completely missed the boat on this one. It’s not like he didn’t have time to develop the story either, Australia runs a lengthy two hours and forty five minutes. Most of this time is spent focusing on dusty, tear-streamed faces with a dramatic original score explaining to me how I’m supposed to feel the pain of love lost, or the pain of a mother losing a child, or how sad it is to shoot kangaroos. The whole movie wasn’t a lost, the surreal sets and cinematography were quite impressive, and pleasant to look at. Although I didn’t really care about the characters (most likely due to the overly cliched scripted), Kidman and Jackman performed sufficiently. Mostly though, Luhrmann loses points on difficulty. If he had even attempted a better film, I might respect it more, but he went the low road on this one, hoping to inspire a tear here and there. I hope Oscar doesn’t get fooled. You’ll probably be entertained watching Australia, but you’ll feel gross about it when you leave the theater.