Monday, February 7, 2011

#185. Australia (2008)

DVD Synopsis: When an English aristrocrat (Nicole Kidman) travels to this faraway continent, she meets rough-hewn cattle driver (Hugh Jackman) and an enchanting Aboriginal child (Brandon Walters). This unlikely trio joins forces and embarks on a transforming journey, driving a herd of cattle across hundreds of miles of the world's most beautiful yet unforgiving terrain. When their world is torn apart by powerful enemies, they must try to find each other amidst the bombing of the city of Darwin by the Japanese forces that attacked Pearl Harbor.

I’m a big fan of director Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film, Moulin Rogue. I loved both the style of its storytelling and the overall tone, a tone that gives off a vibe that, no matter how dramatic things might get, everything is going to be fine in the end. There was an air of frivolity, an underlying comedy to it all which served Moulin Rogue brilliantly, and I recognized this same frivolity in Luhrmann’s most recent film, Australia

This time, however, it doesn’t work at all. 

What was refreshing in Moulin Rogue I found to be a distraction in Australia, which, I’m sure, has something to do with Australia’s subject matter. When your movie is about lovers in Paris at the turn of the century putting on a stage show, by all means: have fun with it. When you’re relating a love story that’s mixed in with racial prejudice and murder, told against the backdrop of the early days of World War II, a flippant and breezy approach may not be the best course of action. I'm not saying that the film required some sort of deeper sense of it's own importance, but certainly a genuine acknowledgment that it was dealing with serious issues was in order.  

With impressive cinematography, a well-realized re-creation of the time period and a real chemistry that exists between it's stars, Australia is certainly a film I'd classify as a noble failure, but a failure nonetheless.

Please leave a comment below... I'd love to hear from you



Klaus said...

Once again, you pretty much summed up my sentiments on Australia and my appreciation for Moulin Rouge (one of my all time favorite movies).

I really wanted to like Australia, it looked great, had some excellent performances, but overall it just wasn't that engaging and certainly not nearly as entertaining as Luhrmann’s previous films.

Dave Becker said...

@Klaus: Yeah, I was disappointed. I really wanted to like this film; it was such a lavish production, with strong performers and what could have been an interesting story. Unfortunately, it just never came together.

I may watch it again at some point in the future to see if a 2nd viewing changes anything (scratch that, I mean I probably WILL watch it wife really, really enjoyed it)

Klaus said...

heh, heh, "...scratch that, I mean I probably WILL watch it wife really, really enjoyed it".

Good answer ;)

My wife hasn't seen it - so i'll probably be re-watching it at some point as well.

anthonyleecollins said...

I stayed away from this one, though I like both of the leads (and I liked Moulin Rouge less than you did, though it had a lot of good aspects). This film didn't seem as though it would play to Luhrmann's strengths (and I guess that turned out to be the case -- based on your review and others I've read).

Dave Becker said...

@Anthony: Yeah, you haven't missed much. It really is a shame, though, because all the elements were in place for a truly memorable film. It just fell short.

Your point about it not playing to Luhrmann's strengths is absolutely valid. AUSTRALIA's story was a little too "intense" for his style.

Ian Montgomery said...

I can't help but chuckle a little whenever I think of this movie. It's called Australia yet Nicole Kidman *still* doesn't get to use her native accent.

Anyway, not everything works in the film but I still found it to be rather enjoyable. The story was serious when it needed to be and silly when they could get away with it. I also think Luhrmann trumped Michael Bay's similar project in terms of character development and likability.

Dave Becker said...

@Ian: Thanks for stopping by.

Glad you enjoyed AUSTRALIA (as I said, my wife is also a big fan of the film). It really was a movie I wanted to like, but in the end it just didn't work for me. I found the "silliness" to be a real distraction in this setting; it just felt forced and out of place (the early scene in the bar when Nicole Kidman first shows up felt very cartoonish to me, and took me out of the moment completely). I will certainly give the film another chance somewhere down the road, though, so we'll see if anything changes.

Thanks again for stopping by, and for the comment. I do appreciate it.

Ian Montgomery said...

You're welcome. Thank you for writing an awesome blog. Good luck getting to 2,500.

Dave Becker said...

@Ian: Thanks so much (and I'll take all the luck I can get).