I can honestly say that not a lot of filmmakers are making the kinds of movies they made in the ‘40s’ and 50’s anymore. I don’t think anyone would disagree. You know, those old school sweeping epics with action, romance and drama? Well, apparently director Baz Luhrman felt the same way. So he made “Australia”.
And you know what? It works. Lots of people are on different sides of his movies, like “Romeo and Juliet” and especially “Moulin Rouge”. It’s love it or hate it with that one. But this grand epic is the stuff of old Hollywood. Luhrman doesn’t dress it up with his usual contemporary flair or interpretations. He stays much with the classic formula.
Lady Ashley (Nicole Kidman) is going to visit her husband in Australia where he has bought land and a bunch of cattle to sell to the military in the early months of World War II. But there is a rival in the area (Bryan Brown) that would like to buy his ranch and cattle so he can have all the business for his own. Her husband is busy so he sends a capable man to meet her; the Drover, played by the uber macho Hugh Jackman. Is that the sound of countless women swooning I hear? Yes.
They arrive at the ranch only to find Lady Ashley’s husband dead, supposedly killed by an aborigine elder. His grandson, Nala, knows the Drover and the ranch well, and claims that the foreman of the ranch, Fletcher, is not all he appears to be. Lady Ashley fires him, and he takes all the ranch hands with him. Now there’s no one to take the cattle to the port in Darwin where they were to sell them to the military…unless she can convince the Drover to take them. And of course she will.
Quite frankly, all the acting in this is great, with a small exception of Nicole Kidman early in the film. She plays a very prim and proper English lady and I think she lays it on a little thick at first. But the interaction between her and Jackman’s character is very playful and provides some humor. Even though you see it coming, there is a scene involving a pack of kangaroos that is pretty funny.
Hugh Jackman is pretty much flawless in this. If there was ever leading man material, he certainly fits the bill. He even gets a gratuitous shirtless scene for the ladies. And let’s face it guys, if it’s true what they say about every man wondering if he were gay even for a second, this is the second you’ll think about it. Then you’ll realize it’s just blatant envy. Who wouldn’t want to be this guy? He’s been Wolverine fer cryin’ out loud. Now he’s the sexiest man on Earth. I’ll take that job, thanks.
The cinematography is breath-taking. You get to see Australia in all its’ majestic glory. It really shows a lot about the country, its’ people and even some history. The film starts in 1939, and ends in 1941, as the Japanese attacked northern Australia. There’s a little something for everyone here. And even though I thought they could have trimmed 15 minutes out of the middle of this fully two and a half hour film, it isn’t really too bad.
In particular, this is going to be a movie you can see with your parents, your grandparents and older aunts and uncles. This is how movies were made 50 or 60 years ago and I think a lot of people will enjoy it. So, go get the family and your parents and enjoy “Australia” together.
—Neil, your average movie goer loving the down under while being briefly confused about his own sexuality.