Microsoft Word 12">

Viewed and Reviewed:  Australia

It's been five (!!)  years since film director Baz Luhrmann's last major release, Moulin Rouge! and the closing of his 'red curtain' trilogy.  What will he do next, we wondered.  How could he possibly top the frenetic feat of Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor singing and dancing to mishmashed showtunes amidst a vivid Bollywood backdrop dripping in delicious melodrama?

His answer? Australia. 

This time out Luhrmann's pastiche is not pop culture and Bollywood, but rather Aussie history and the old Hollywood studio system epics like Gone With the Wind.  Does it work?  Yes!

Australia is both big and small.  The story sweeps you back in time to 1939 Australia and throws you into a far reaching province outside Darwin.  The remote, dusty locations offer a grand landscape to tell the story of how a wealthy English woman, Lady Sarah Ashley (Kidman) comes to appreciate and love the unknown, harsh land she originally only plans to visit briefly.  Quickly, she meets Mr. Drover (Hugh Jackman), a roughian cut straight out of the romance novel's crib sheet for creating the damaged leading man. 

Soon after, Lady Ashley meets Nullah, a half-White, half-Aboriginal child who lives on the ranch she has arrived to sell.  Faster than you can say "queue the villain," Kidman defends Nullah and his mother from a vicious beating and decides to keep the ranch to take on the greedy, monopolistic cattle barons ruling the territories with an iron fist. 

Nullah, a 'half-breed' of race with no true home among the 'Whites' or among the 'Aborigines' is the heart and soul of the movie.  He's the narrator, conscience and major force of the film...a surprise to be sure.  Luhrmann's choice to tell this fairly traditional woman's story from Nullah's point-of-view is a risk and might be a bit jarring at the movie's outset.  (There were a few stifled laughs trickling through the audience.)  Still, give the movie a little bit of time, and soon you're sucked into Luhrmann's singular world.

Luhrmann succeeds in providing the movie equivalent of an historical romance, a Wild West tale and a wartime romance all rolled into a tale of personal discovery, redemption and love. 

Australia is big.  
It's lyrical.
It's funny. 
It's touching. 
It's long. 
It's exciting.

Really, what else would you expect from Baz Luhrmann?

Luhrmann is an accomplished visualist and knows how to pull on the audience's heartstrings. (Later, instead of chuckles, sniffles could be heard.)  He's on his game here.   If you're a fan of his other work, you won't be disappointed. 

Flick Chick's Rating:  Worth the Big Screen