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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Australia (2008)


Apparently, Steve Irwin’s death wasn’t the worst moment in Australia’s history. Too soon?

Northern Australia during the breakout of WWII was a bit of a mess, but at the center of all the craziness, pain, anger, and agony, there were two people (Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman), who came from two opposite sides, to somehow meet together in the middle and find a love that was greater than any other force in the entire world. She, Lady Sarah Ashley, was a richy-rich, stuck-up lady from England who came overseas to help her husband out with his cattle-business, whereas he, Drover, was just a man who just took the cattle, and helped them across the acres so he got his money and went on his way. In the middle of them both, there is a small, Aboriginal child by the name of Nullah (Brandon Walters).

Baz Luhrmann is sort of like a poor man’s version of Terrence Malick. All skills aside, the guy makes a film every once and awhile, hypes it up forever, and they usually meet all of the hype. Over a career that spans 30 years, the man has only made four movies (five, if you include The Great Gatsby coming out this Friday), and each of them have been pretty good. However, whatever your tastes-buds are, you can’t lie about the fact that the guy loves the material he puts on screen, and always give it his 110% full devotion and time. Hence why his films take awhile to come out. However, maybe the guy went a little too far this time. Just a bit, I’d say.

It’s obvious that before the idea of this movie even came about, Luhrmann watched and studied the old-school MGM movies of the 30′s, 40′s, and early 50′s. Why is it obvious? Well, if you take away the beautiful visuals, the color, the action, the blood, the murder, and some other disturbing images that would have been pretty taboo back in the day, then you have your typical, feel-good epic that would have been made back in the day with Clark Gable and Joan Crawford, and probably took the whole world by storm. However, those were simpler and more modest times, nowadays, our more-current viewers don’t really have the steam and time for all of the melodramatic moments that Luhrmann seems to embrace, but not really think through.

The Australian-version of Run Lola Run: Run Tall-ass White Girl Run.

The Australian-version of Run Lola Run: Run Tall-Ass White Girl Run.

For instance, there are plenty of scenes in this movie where everything is so happy-wappy, so joyful with glee, and so damn smiley, that it’s near-laughable. That’s not to say that the actors involved with these moments don’t try their hardest to get past the obvious-corniness of the material, but they can’t help but fall prey either. It’s almost inescapable with corn-ballish material such as this. But then some weird things would start to happen with this movie, and I found myself getting more and more lost out of nowhere.

The idea that this flick tackles two subjects, both gripping in their own ways, at the same time really makes it seem a tad uneven, as well as up-and-down with it’s transition. On one end of the arena, we have the love story between Jackman and Kidman, which is probably the best element of this whole flick. Both are great workers in their own right, but the way they’re characters were playing-off of one another at first, had me worried that it was going to be too light and rompy to be taken seriously. But somehow, they made it work because they legitimately do seem like they have sexual-chemistry that can’t wait to get you all hot, sweaty, and ready for the lovin’ to take ahold. If I was Keith Urban, I’d be a little ready to put the fist-a-cuffs up next time I saw Wolverine. Then again, I’m not Keith Urban. Which altogether means that I’m not a million dollar-selling, country artist that is married to Nicole Kidman. Nope, I’m Dan O’Neill, who blogs and watches movie. Wow. Life sucks.

Anyway, those two whether they are together or not, make this movie work and keep it moving at a pace that draws your attention in, but it didn’t seem to draw Luhrmann’s attention all that much, considering he’s more concerned with the other aspect of the movie it wants to cover: the Aborigines. The Aborigines were a very important part of Australia’s history, which makes total sense as to why Luhrmann would make them a key-focus in this story of times that are changing, and the love story in-between it all, but it doesn’t fit well as it seems to not be Luhrmann’s strong-suit.

The strong-suit that I’m talking about is how the man can’t seem to really get his point across, without being as obvious as an albino, dressed in all white, playing hide-n-go seek. Yeah, that obvious. Scenes where they are merely showing the types of racism the Aborigines would face are somewhat disturbing, but also don’t fit well in the context of this movie when you have a bunch of people palling-around with one another and believing in the spirits from up-above. Obviously Luhrmann does not like the treatment that the Aborigines faced during this period, but he doesn’t show his feelings in a strong-enough way to really impact you and instead; sort of makes you wish that he didn’t try to explore it anymore than he already did. Shame too, because it’s a piece of Australian-history that is one of the most important, and should never be forgotten. However, you can’t help but want to forget about it, especially when it’s getting in the way of the sexy-time between Jackman and Kidman.

Hypothermia rules!!!

Hypothermia rules!!!

Seriously, they were about to make me faint!

But this review would not at all be complete if I didn’t talk about Luhrmann’s inspired-attention to detail, that never ceases to amaze me, no matter how melodramatic the material may be. Every scene in this movie feels as if Luhrmann not only paid close attention to it, but wouldn’t go asleep for days until he nailed exactly what he wanted to see. Sure, some of the scenes seem choppy due to lame-o special-effects and green-screens galore, however, it’s still something to see and marvel at, considering you know the type of film maker Luhrmann is. I disliked the hell out of his rendition of Romeo & Juliet, but the man always gave me something to go googely-eyes at, which made the movie slightly-better. That’s the same exact formula here, except there’s more to this story than just an age-old love story that we’ve heard, countless-upon-countless of times. This is a story that does have a heart, does have a vision, and does have inspiration, it just gets lost somewhere in the muddle of it all. Thankfully, Baz keeps his head above it, and keeps us watching. How the man does it: I will never know.

Consensus: Modest and old-fashioned to a fault, Australia may not be the type of movie you watch time and time again due to the unevenness of the material, and cloying-parts of the story that seem to pokes it’s ugly head out every so often, but is one of those movies you watch to enjoy, marvel at with the flair for visual and colors, and get ready to sweat, especially once you see Jackman and Kidman lock bodies, and prepare to make love. Oh yeah, baby.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Strike a pose. Make it look sexy. Now why can't it be that easy for me?!?!?

“Yup. We know you’re going to whack it to this picture when you get home.”

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16 responses to “Australia (2008)

  1. ninvoid99 May 6, 2013 at 4:25 am

    I don’t think Baz Luhrmann should be compared to Terrence Malick as they’re just two very different directors. Malick is more of a minimalist who is all about the moment that is being captured while going for naturalism in his visual style. Luhrmann is more of a filmmaker who is very extravagant with his visuals while is more concerned with the ideas of love and beauty. I’ll divulge more next week when I post my Auteurs piece on Luhrmann.

    • CMrok93 May 6, 2013 at 4:57 am

      Yeah, I mean what I meant by that was the dude never really makes movies, so when they finally do come out: they are more like events than actual movies you just go out and see. Quality-wise, they aren’t all that alike.

  2. Chris May 6, 2013 at 9:47 am

    I like Lurman. His Romeo + Juliet and his Moulin Rouge have an energy and a rhythm about them. But I think you got it just right when you talk about him aiming for a classic 50s epic. I just don’t think this style suits him.

    My biggest gripe with the film is that it feels like two stories, mashed together. There’s a cattle drive story which ends and then they randomly start a war story. Oh, and the race politics are (exactly as you say) very heavy-handed.

    Basically, I’m not sure I would have been as forgiving in my score as you were in yours. :P

    Still, great write-up!

    • CMrok93 May 6, 2013 at 3:15 pm

      Thanks Chris! I liked the vision from Luhrmann and the story kept me interested, but I will say that it does get very heavy-handed, especially over the long-ass run time.

  3. Evan Crean May 6, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Still haven’t seen this one, nor have I had a grand interest in it. I’ve always felt that Luhrmann has way more about style over substance. That being said I laughed my ass off at some of your lines in this review like “Baz Luhrmann is sort of like a poor man’s version of Terrence Malick.” And “The strong-suit that I’m talking about is how the man can’t seem to really get his point across, without being as obvious as an albino, dressed in all white, playing hide-n-go seek.” I absolutely agree on both points. I didn’t think his Romeo + Juliet was a huge miss, although that’s perhaps because I have a background in Shakespeare/theater. I’m seeing Gatsby tonight and I’m not feeling too hopeful, but like you said, you have to admire his attention to detail and his devotion. At least he’s passionate about what he’s making, instead of churning out completely boring stuff. Maybe Gatsby will be a pleasant surprise.

    • CMrok93 May 6, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      That’s what I give him credit for the most. He actually cares about what he makes and that’s something you don’t often see with certain directors nowadays.

  4. keith7198 May 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    This is one of those movies that I’ve wanted to see but I’ve never invested the time into. Solid review!

  5. brikhaus May 6, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    This was absolutely terrible. I kept thinking the movie would be a million times better if Jackman unleashed his claws and tore some shit up.

  6. Wendell May 6, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    I’ve tried to make it through this several times to no avail. I’m usually not one for quitting on movies but I fell asleep on it every time. I’ll pass.

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  8. Whit May 7, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    I’m guessing your going to see The Great Gatsby Friday. Great review!!!

  9. filmhipster May 9, 2013 at 2:02 am

    I was so disappointed with this film. From what I can remember the animation was pretty shitty and the story was thin. Love that last comment on the pic!!! Lol

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