Monday, 21 September 2020
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Tuesday, 02 December 2008 20:27

ThumbnailThere are few things in this world that could top the spectacle of Hugh Jackman all dressed up as sexy Wolverine in X-Men. That performance made him a household name, at least in households inhabited by women or comic-book nerds. My friends could tell you that since then he formally became known as “The Man I Will Marry One Day”.

Wishful thinking on my part, especially since he is already happily married and loyal to his wife – making him even more attractive, I might add. But to get back on track – few things can top Hugh as Wolverine, but if anything might come close it is Hugh in full western gear as an Aussie cattle-drover in the movie Australia.

Australia is taking a beating from critics for being over-the-top and ridden with cliché, but you know what? I think that’s what makes it work. Director Baz Luhrmann is hardly known for subtlety. His short roster of films only includes four to date, but each is spectacular in its own way and showcases Luhrmann’s theatrical style perfectly. For those who’ve never seen it, I highly recommend his creative first film Strictly Ballroom. Romeo & Juliet took Shakespeare into new territory, and of course Moulin Rouge was the thick and elaborate icing on the cake. In a way his films each seem to be a tribute to a performing art: dance, classical theatre, musical theatre… and now old-fashioned movie making. Australia tips a hat at Gone With the Wind or Casablanca.

The story is set in Northern Australia during the time before World War II. Stubborn Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) travels to the outback to bring home her husband whom she believes to be philandering and living the high life on his cattle land. When she arrives she finds her husband dead and realizes she couldn’t have been more wrong. Faced with the truth she partners with a roving cattle-drover (Jackman) to protect her ranch from a take-over plot. Together they set out to herd 2,000 head of cattle across the spectacular Australian landscape.

That’s the general gist although there are plenty more plot devises thrown in including a side story about a little aboriginal boy who lives on the property. He quickly becomes the glue that binds Lady Ashley and Drover together as they need to protect him as well. The children of white men and aboriginal women were taken away to religious communes to be “saved” and “cleansed” of their native blood. In reality of course they were taken advantage of and practically turned into slaves.

ThumbnailThe cinematography is beautiful, showcasing Australia’s diverse wilderness. Costume and set design are unique and I thought everyone was well cast. Jackman was the right man for the job, even if I am already biased. Say what you will about Nicole Kidman’s glacier-cold looks, she is a talented actress and not afraid to look a little goofy.

I thoroughly enjoyed Australia in all its old-fashioned, almost Technicolor glory. At times it’s silly and overly sentimental, especially with the constant repetition of the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow. There is an old saying, “They don’t make ‘em like they used to”, and I for one appreciate that Baz Luhrmann was trying his best to make it “like they used to” – full of spectacle, romance and a healthy dose of sentimentality.