Monday, November 24, 2008

I review it: Australia

"The only thing you truly own is your story. I'm just trying to live a good one."The Embassy of Australia hosted an advance screening of Baz Luhrmann's new movie Australia at work last night. Thanks to boss man TAJ, I scored tickets.


The only movie I can compare Australia to is Gone with the Wind.  It is an epic film in the tradition of Hollywood's Golden Age.  It's not a movie that can be easily summed up, because it has so many threads.  It's love, war, loss, family, loyalty, and treachery.  It's about trying to hold on to what's yours, whether it be land, a person, or an entire culture.  It's about learning to let go.  It's trying to find your place and figure out where you belong.  It's The Wizard of Oz filtered through the Dreamtime.
It will also make you cry.  Okay, it made me cry.  A lot.  
So I know I just said you can't summarize the movie, but I'm going to take a stab.  If you don't want to know anything and want to come into the movie fresh, now might be a good time to go see what's happening on the Gawker networks.


Don't say I didn't warn you ... there be details here ...


Nicole Kidman plays Lady Sarah Ashley.  She goes to Australia to sort out her husband, who's trying to make a go of a failing cattle station in the Northern Territory.   Hugh Jackman is the Drover, her husband's trusted man who is sent to fetch her.  They just want to get their cattle to market - there's a war on don't you know, and the King's Army requires beef.  There are some very, very bad men (DIE CRACK WHORES DIE!!!) who try to thwart them.
The whole story is narrated by Nullah, an Aboriginal boy who lives on the station.  He's half white, and that means he doesn't belong anywhere. The government won't allow him to stay in his community with his mother (part of an assimilation program that wasn't ended until the 1970's. Seriously), but white society doesn't want him either.
Things get off to a bit of a slow start, with early scenes played a little too broadly.  Dipping a toe into screwball territory.  Its very Baz, if that makes any sense.  But then our heroes get to droving, and the shit is ON.  There's a scene that will literally take your breath away.  In the sense that you can't breathe because OMGOMGTHEEDGETHEEDGEOHNOOHNOOHNO!!!
Yeah, its kind of like that.
Then things are okay for a while, but its only the calm before the storm.   The storm of Japanese zeros dropping bombs on the city of Darwin.  
It was the sight of King George standing silently in the middle of the jail yard while bombs rained down around him that had me shaking because I was trying so hard to keep the sobs in.  Okay, again, tearing up just thinking about it.  
King George is Nullah's grandfather.  He's a magic man who still sings the songs of the Dreaming.  And it may not be the subtlest metaphor in the world, but the imagery is highly effective.  The sight of this man from another time - another reality- standing silent and unmoved as his world is consumed in fire and chaos.
And in the end, there's no place like home.  No place like it.


Nicole Kidman is very good (and doesn't look too plastic).  Life in Australia (and three days in NeverNever Land) takes a woman brittle as glass and burns away every thing that doesn't matter.
I'll just say this about Hugh Jackman ...

No wonder People just named you sexiest man alive.  Because DAMN Wolverine.  DAY.  UM.
Now, the movie is 2 HOURS AND 40 MINUTES long, and pulls that bait and switch where you think its over, but no, there's still a 4th act and you probably really have to pee but hang in there.  Because it's well worth the price of admission.  I'd pay cash money to see it again.
4 baby eating dingoes out of 5.
Baz Luhrmann's Australia starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman opens November 26.

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