Australia Review: Australi-yawn
Australia is long. Very long. Then again, so was Titanic and Jurassic Park 2, both of which were awesome, in very different ways. The difference here is that Australia doesn’t justify its length. Whilst the story is unquestionably epic, that’s more because it’s like two one and a half hour stories patched together with a bit of narrative duct tape rather than one epic story in its own right.
An ambitious marathon of a movie set in the time leading up to Japan’s pre-WW2 bombing of the city of Darwin, Australia is a love story plagued by lazy writing that even the grand vistas of red rock and dry desert can’t hide. The characters are poorly developed, and I’m not sure if Kidman’s decision to not read the script before signing on paid out. She does her best impression of a British aristocrat – a performance which is at first sphincter-clenchingly cringeworthy, but develops to mere mediocrity as the character relaxes.
Jackman’s Drover – a sort of wartime cowboy whose mantra is “no man hires me, no man fires me” – is just as much of a stereotype, though perhaps not such a nauseating one. Worse still, the relationship between the two of them crawls from distain to indifference before making two quick jumps to admiration and on to love. Suddenly the two are fawning over one another, and there’s no explanation and no real sense of transition.
The main thing that comes across in Australia is Baz Luhrmann’s propensity to nostalgia. It is a love song to the continent, and he does manage to get across its enormity, beauty and brutality impressively, but at what cost? By letting the human characters take a back seat to the charisma of the country, Luhrmann loses that sector of his audience that is not so enthused by the landscape, and I’m not sure anyone wants three hours of that.
It powerfully recalls some of the old romantic epics as the stars fill the silver screen with their kisses, but it doesn’t have the same mystery and romance it once had and now it seems too affected without any of the light-heartedness and good humour that made Moulin Rouge! so enjoyable.
Australia: £84 million and nine months of filming. A sense of timing: priceless.
By Chris Harding