Tuesday, 6 January 2009
Most critics panned Australia. I can sort of understand why, but anyone who has seen Baz Luhrmann’s films should know what they are walking into. If you don’t like Luhrmann, don’t watch his films. If you like his films, Australia will not disappoint you.
Australia is a quirky old-fashioned epic, the kind they used to make before 1970. After half an hour or so, Gone With the Wind will come to mind and not long after that I thought of The Wizard of Oz (appropriate for an Australian film). Seconds after thinking this, The Wizard of Oz became a central part of the plot. That’s when Luhrmann had me.
Sure, the film is entirely predictable. Sure the CGI is obvious. Sure the music and some of the acting are way over the top, giving us the kind of over-sentimentalized melodrama that could be quickly condemned if this were not a Baz Luhrmann film. But it is a Luhrmann film and you have to believe that this is exactly the kind of film he was trying to make, something that would have been treated very differently in 1939, or even 1959.
Besides the Oz theme, a highlight for me was the way the Aboriginal people of Australia (the best actors in the film, especially Brandon Walters as Nulla) featured so prominently in the film. This could have been used to even greater effect, and the ending could have been much more imaginative (if it had been, I might have given Australia four stars), but there were so many gorgeous memorable scenes that I could overlook the plot’s failings. The grand romance between Nicole Kidmann and Hugh Jackmann doesn't always work (Kidmann is not at her best here), but it works well enough to overlook the problems here as well. I enjoy watching the great epics of the 30’s and 50’s and I thought Australia was grand entertainment of a kind we rarely see anymore.
I give Australia ***+. My mug is up.