"Australia" Review

Title: Australia
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Genre(s): Drama/Romance
Rated: PG-13 (For some violence, a scene of sensuality, and brief strong language)

“Australia” has been hyped for months as being Baz Luhrmann’s big epic. The director of famous teen flicks like the Leonardo DiCaprio “Romeo + Juliet,” “Australia” was said to be the film that would establish him as a great director. Even Oprah Winfrey called it the best film of the year, and one of the best she’s seen in a long time. Of course, Oprah wouldn’t know what the best film of the year is typically; she’s too busy reading average books to care what’s in the cineplexs. The movie stars Nicole Kidman as Sarah Ashley, who normally goes by the name Ms. Boss. She goes to Australia because she believes her husband, who has been there for months, is more busy fornicating then actually making money off cattle. Upon arrival she finds her husband has been murdered, her workers have been working for the competition, and there is a interracial child who practices magic through song (I’m not kidding).
The only person she can trust is a drover (Hugh Jackman), who helps her establish her farm and breaks up the cattle monopoly. Then love blooms, World War II looms, and hell breaks loose. Chances are you all know where it goes from here. In terms of grand scale this movie delivers. It’s big, long, and epic. No expense was sparred in making this film as beautiful to look at as possible. In terms of style this film can do no wrong. In terms of story it fumbles a bit. Truth be told, I didn’t even like most of the first hour. Overtly silly, with hammy “look at me acting,” and an annoying kid I didn’t like, “Australia” was heading for mediocrity pretty fast. Then the romance blooms and the movie leaves behind it’s slapstick roots and embraces the epic nature the story requires.
Once the movie takes off it’s fairly easy to ignore the problems. The romance has more to do with hormones then it does real love. The fact that Jackman’s drover character goes unnamed throughout the entire movie speaks volumes about the characters personal relationships. There’s even the evil Neil Fletcher (David Wenham), the man who used to work for Sarah and has been plotting to take her land for years. He’s easy to hate in the sense that he does nothing but bad things. There’s no room for complexity in this character. There’s also gorgeous shots of Australia herself, but far too many of these scenes are slow motion, pretty land images. These, combined with the first forty-five minutes of slapstick, make this 165-minute film painfully slow at times.
And while we’re on time, this movie is too long. Twenty minutes less would have been preferred (if not an outright thirty). So is this Baz Luhrmann’s big epic? Considering all the other movies he’s made, I guess it has to be. None of his other films are of this scope, so it’s almost an automatic win. The question is this: Is this an epic in and of itself? I’m going to say no. There’s enough to like about it to see why some will love it, and it caters to an audience that will eat it up, but there’s little lasting afterwards to suggest a classic. With “Titanic,” “Out of Africa,” and countless other epic romances out there, “Australia” feels a little weak in comparison. Then again, it feels a little weak on it’s own sometimes.

Parents will want to preview this film for language, sexual situations, and some bloody war violence. Recommended for ages 14 and up.