Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Review of Baz Luhrmann's Australia
First there was the thousand year-long news commentary, then came the Walkabout campaign, and now even Baz himself has been popping up all over Darlinghurst.
And it's all in aid of reminding us that it's coming. Australia. The film that defines us as a nation and saves the Australian film industry.
Finally seeing Australia is an experience I would liken to watching The Lion King as an adult. The plot is familiar bundle of themes (Can we ever really escape our past? What will happen in this Cattle drive? Can he/she do it? YES HE/SHE CAN!, etc) that unravel in predictable formations over The Landscape.
Making Australia would be an experience I would liken to making that analogy about The Lion King: you're pretty fucking proud of it, confident that it captures the very essence of Australia/Australia, and whether it actually does or not is beside the point.
One of the most important essences of being Australian is having opinions about Nicole Kidman, and each Nicole-drenched frame of this film is like a call to arms. Kidman's onscreen accent is startlingly similar to her own trans-Atlantic confection, and her face is so weird and plastic-y that she is pitch perfect as the uptight British Aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley, an interloper left in charge of a cattle station in Northern Australia.
In spite of the many meaningful gazes exchanged between Lady S.A and the Drover, there is little need for her and Hugh Jackman to do the necessary groundwork to establish chemistry; we've already seen them groping each other inappropriately on the front cover of Woman's Weekly.
Baz is a New-Sincerity film-maker. He is on the record as saying this film aims to channel the Gone With The Wind-esque romantic tropes of days gone by. But we’re a bit savvier that the audience from those days, and it’s nearly impossible to forget that it’s anyone but NICOLE KIDMAN and HUGH JACKMAN on the screen.
The fact that Nicole and Hugh are two of our best Hollywood exports suggests that while the film may be about us, it is not necessarily for us. The same applies to the Walkabout ad: so what if we’ve continually mistreated Aborigines and their communities are breaking down, people from overseas are going to lose their shit over our magical natives!
But Baz remains the master manipulator of emotion, or at least of my emotions.
My PC-Arts-degree antennae disappeared as I became genuinely affected by the swirly dark waters of the Northern Territory, and then when Sybilla Budd CAME BACK AS KATE!!11
And I won't give away the ending of Australia, but between the exquisite long shots of the wide brown land coupled with the haunting voice of Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, and the frankly ADORABLE head of Brandon Walters, it would be unfair on Baz and the Australian film industry to say that I didn't enjoy this movie.
However, the excessive marketing juggernaut surrounding the release of Australia has tarnished the experience of judging it on its own merits. It feels as though you've already seen it when you haven't, and it feels a bit like you've just been on a boring primary school excursion to Olde Sydney Town when you've actually just seen Baz Luhrmann's Australia.