Monday, December 29, 2008

Australia Mini-review

I've been putting this off forever. I saw this movie a month ago, and I couldn't quite bring myself to write this review. I wanted so badly for this movie to blow me away, to top the Oscar and best movies of 2008 lists. I was disappointed. It didn't help that I had obnoxious young people behind me laughing at every possible moment that shouldn't be laughed at -- like a character dying! I walked out of the movie seething, and upset with myself that I didn't do more than glare at them. So, I waited to write this review, hoping that all my misgivings were due to the awful circumstances. They weren't.

Award's Daily said of Australia, "How can a movie be so glorious and so God-awful all at the same time?" I agree wholeheartly. The shower scene, in particular, lived up to the hype. Hubba hubba!

I adore Baz Luhrmann. I really do. Others hated Moulin Rouge, but I loved it. I love Baz's creativity, and how off-beat his films are. He truly listens to the beat of a different drummer. But he should listen to some expert editors and producers next time, too. Oy. This movie is all over the place, and there are several endings. Baz's parents owned the movie theater in the small Australia town he grew up in, and it was like he tried to fit every old movie genre in one film -- it's a star-crossed romance, a coming of age film, a Western, a war movie, a melodrama! Australia would fit right in on Turner Classic Movies or AMC. It's like he wanted every story about Australia in one movie -- the Lost Generation, Aborigine discrimination, the Outback, the bombing of Darwin, the huge cattle ranches! Any ONE story would have been enough, but we had them all. Just the bombing of Darwin IS a story that should be told. Our family was visiting Australia when word of this movie hit the papers. We visited Darwin, and I had no idea that Australia had been bombed in WWII. They couldn't film this in Darwin because hardly one pre-WWII building still stands! It's disconcerting how modern looking the town is -- so they had to film on the East Coast.

Nicole Kidman did fine, and she certainly didn't mind showing herself in all her ridiculousness. I just wish she's lay off the botox so we could see more emotion than the widening of her eyes. Hugh was great, but I admit to some bias. Others wished the role had stayed Russell Crowe's (but Russell was the one to turn it down). Maybe there would have been more chemistry, but Nicole is best buds with Crowe, too, so who knows. Their romance didn't really send a tingle up my spine, but I may have to view the film again, since that nitwit behind me laughed through all their kissing scenes.

The real discovery of the film is Brandon Walters, who plays the young aboriginal boy. He was amazing! And the gorgeous Australian scenery! It was worth it to see it on the big screen just for those amazing vistas. I've been there, and Baz has not only captured the magic, but made quite the tourist commercial! I wish Baz had edited this film better. It was long and could have been trimmed quite a bit. Did we need Hugh to get in a bar brawl and smash the suitcase with all Nicole's unmentionables before he meets her? Not really. He's a cowboy, she's an aristocratic priss. Move on with it.

Baz Luhrmann's movie has not done the business that had been expected -- but the director points out that it is tracking ahead of Moulin Rouge for the same 4 week period. He has been eviscerated in the press, not only for the story and direction of the film, but for its brief marketing campaign. Baz has rebutted his critics (me included) for the fact that his movie cannot be pigeon holed. He compares it to films like Gone With the Wind, which he says has warts, too:

"There are those that don't get it. A lot of the film scientists don't get it. And it's not just that that they don't get it, but they hate it and they hate me, and they think I'm the black hole of cinema. They say, 'He shouldn't have made it, and he should die'..."This is not (simply) a romantic comedy for 40-year-old women or action movies for 17-year-old boys, and that's not OK with some people. It's not OK for people to come eat at the same table of cinema."

"You look at movies like 'Gone With the Wind' and Old Hollywood classics, and they don't fit in any box....No large-scale movie doesn't have warts, just by its nature."

When you do what I do, you expect to be covered in mud. But there seems to be a lot of misinformation...I'm used to the waves crashing around me. And what I do is stick to a craggy rock as they keep coming. And if you stick to it long enough someone else will stick to it, too, and then someone else and then someone else."

I think I need to see this movie again and give it another chance. It didn't meet my expectations, but maybe my expectations were wrong. I give the man points for ambition, if nothing else. I reluctantly give it only 2 1/2 stars. Baz's next project is The Great Gatsby. That should be interesting!

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