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.
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.
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!!