Pin It

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Nicole Kidman travels far and away in 'Australia'

click to enlarge WET ’N WILD: Hugh Jackman as the Drover (left) and Nicole Kidman as Sarah
  • WET ’N WILD: Hugh Jackman as the Drover (left) and Nicole Kidman as Sarah

If The African Queen and Indiana Jones had a baby with a chronic case of A.D.D. and raised it Down Under, it would grow up to be Australia, Baz Luhrmann’s overinflated romantic saga.

In previous films such as Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, Luhrmann never let audience headaches get in the way of his pursuit of hyperbolic stylishness. Australia’s first third unfolds like a cartoon of romance novels. On the eve of World War II, Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) travels from England to Australia to save her late husband’s ranch, Faraway Downs, from a beef baron (Bryan Brown) and his vicious henchman (David Wenham). Sarah only finds allies among a rag-tag group of drunks, Aborigines and a rough-hewn cattle driver called “The Drover” (Hugh Jackman). (If this were an American film, he’d be a cowboy named “The Cowboy.”)

Australia’s shrill, spastic first act plays like this summer’s eyesore Speed Racer movie, pitched to middle-aged ladies. Once the massive cattle drive starts, however, Luhrmann catches a breath and lets the story calm down and expand to fill the gorgeous vistas of his native land. Australia features an adorable supporting turn from young Brandon Walters as Nullah, a “half-caste” boy born of Wenham’s character and an Aboriginal mother. Luhrmann uses Nullah’s travails to decry the racist aspects of Australian history in sharper terms than, say, Gone With the Wind ever did.

Eventually Kidman and Jackman’s charms emerge and the story intermittently clicks as an old-fashioned melodrama, culminating with star-crossed lovers and surrogate families trying to reunite during a Japanese attack. Even when Luhrmann’s epic successfully sweeps and sprawls, it still has to contend with heavy-handed Aboriginal mysticism and shameless tributes to The Wizard of Oz. As an Old School, Really Big Movie, Australia should fare well at the Oscars, even though it amounts to little more than a giant “Welcome to Australia!” postcard with super-saturated colors and historical footnotes written on the back.

Australia 2 stars Directed by Baz Luhrmann. Stars Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman. Rated PG-13. Opens Wed., Nov. 26. At area theaters.

(Photo by James Fisher)

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Latest in Fresh Loaf

More by Curt Holman

10/16/2014

Search Events

Search Fresh Loaf

Recent Comments

© 2014 Creative Loafing Atlanta
Powered by Foundation