By Alex Florez
Rated: PG-13 for some violence, a scene of sensuality, and brief strong language.
Release Date: 2008-11-26
Starring: Baz Lurhmann, Ronald Harwood
Country: USA, Australia
Official Website: http://australiamovie.com/
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With ‘Moulin Rouge!’, visionary filmmaker Baz Lurhmann finished his ‘Red Curtain Trilogy’ (Strictly Ballroom and Romeo+Juliet are the other two) – a series of stylized and highly choreographed retelling of stories we’re all pretty familiar with.
Australia however, Lurhmann’s latest film, is not only a departure in style and content but in ambition as well. Let’s just say this is Lurhmann’s ‘Gone with the Wind’. A near three hour epic no one other than himself could have directed.
But Lurhmann fans need not fret. There is still plenty of singing (no, it’s not quite a musical) and borderline corniness to make your time worthwhile.
The romantic action adventure sets itself in a country on the explosive brink of World War II. In it, an English aristocrat named Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) travels down under, where she meets a rough hewn local (Hugh Jackman) and reluctantly agrees to join forces with him to save the land she inherited. On this journey however, she finds herself caring for an enchanting young orphan named Nullah (brilliantly played by Brandon Walters), a half-Aboriginal, half-Caucasian boy adrift in a segregated society that treats him as an outcast.
And that’s precisely where the strength of the film lies. The story, narrated by the boy himself, is most powerful when it confronts Australia’s horrifying past. Yet Lurhmann cautiously tries to abstain from the plight of the Australian aborigines in the 1940s. A deeper exploration of the historical context in which it set its love story, would have served it well. Instead the film flirts with a magical realism that is mawkishly sentimental.
As an action film there are certainly some riveting sequences which prove that Lurhmann can direct more than mere dance numbers. And though the accents are a bit difficult to navigate past, the performances are solid as well. But in the end, it’s the long running time and the lack of focus in the screenplay that do the film in.