12.07.2008

Australia



Man, I had a hard time with this film. Baz Luhrmann's film is certainly ambitious. It started with great promise, but then it just...kept...going.

The opening twenty minutes were pretty entertaining. The film portrayed the early '40s fetchingly; Luhrmann strung together an interesting series of overlaps, fades, dissolves and jumpcuts to divulge the backstory. We learn about Australia's Stolen Generations. We learn about the character played by Hugh Jackman, a man strangely only called "The Drover" throughout the whole film. Honestly, even after he married Lady Sarah Ashley (played in typical fussy, constipated fashion by Nicole Kidman), she just called him "Drover." What was the man's name?

But after opening with such promise, the whole thing devolves. The narration is told in broken English by an aboriginal boy named Nullah (Brandon Walters). The kid has promise, but he annoyed throughout this film. It's hard to think of child actors over-playing their roles, but that's just what happened here.

The film is a series of seemingly insurmountable tragedies. Nullah's mom dies, needlessly, in one scene. They have a crazy cattle drive (one good scene in the film) and a hit-and-miss romance. Ashley's husband is murdered and a creepy aborigine named King George dances around in a thong and follows the characters throughout the movie. There's a subplot about an evil cattle baron (even the villain here is dull). Oh, yeah, and there's some stuff in there about a war as well.

I've heard critics mention this film in the same breath as Gone With the Wind. Not even close, friends. I was laughing in the third act as Luhrmann trots out every romantic cliche in the book. Slow motion shots of the little kid running for The Drover and crying his name at a reunion. "Drover! Drover!"

There's, of course, a case of mistaken identity as we worry about whether Ashley was killed in the bombing. There's a bunch of sentimental crap in there about The Wizard of Oz.

Honestly, this is the biggest jumble of cinematic hoo-ha I've seen in a while. If you still go to this film, bring plenty of supplies. It checks in at 165 minutes and they don't pass particularly quickly.

I'd like to see Milk, and Gran Torino looks interesting, but this season's pick of "prestige" films just doesn't look all that appealing to me. I'll be seeing The Spirit on Christmas day I guess.

So what are you folks looking at? Anything out there worth seeing?

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