Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman
Australia is intended to be one of those epic love stories set in a historical time period. It is long, features two big stars and has a scene of death and destruction. Think of it as Australia’s answer to Gone with the Wind, only not as good. In fact, the movie takes place in 1939. The Wizard of Oz even plays a pivotal role in the movie.
Kidman plays a British royal who goes to Australia where her husband has been murdered. She takes charge of their cattle ranch and falls for a cowboy, Jackman. The movie starts like a comedy. One scene has her underwear all over a public street as Jackman used her suitcase to beat up someone. The movie turns into a western, then into a romance and then into a war movie.
As this film is titled "Australia", it makes a nod to the aboriginal people of Australia. As is expected, they are treated like wise wizards who know far more than westerners. They sing and do magic, or at least think they do. The movie never says for sure. Either way, the aboriginal story line is the one area that should have been cut.
Speaking of editing, one scene has the main characters driving cattle across country. They come to an area of land where they will not have water for several days. They all dread the path and make a big deal about it, but then the movie cut to them arriving in the big city, so I guess all of their worries were for naught.
Kidman and Jackman walk through their roles without giving their characters any personalities. Kidman is minor royalty who falls for a rough out back free spirit. I never saw that coming. So many scenes are paint by number that you can see them coming minutes before they get there. One scene is almost laughable as Kidman gets Jackman a suit and begs him to come to the ball. He declines but then wait, at the right moment he shows up dressed like Rick Blaine and cleaned shaven as all of the guests turn to look in his direction.
Australia has two climaxes. The movie could have ended when they get the cattle to town and use the money they made to refurbish their farm. To include some history, the movie continues with the Japanese attack on the Australian city of Darwin. The previews showed the fighting to be part of the movie and not just an action climax to a romantic melodrama musical comedy. Australia has plenty of things going on but not enough substance in any of it to garner a decent reaction from the audience.
Essentially this movie is a western.
I actually enjoyed this movie much more than I thought I would, but that's mainly because I was expecting so little from it. It seemed like it would be one of those overblown epics so full of itself that it would be devoid of all charm. Instead I found it to be a fairly generic epic but with enough sound and fury to keep me mildly entertained right up until when the movie should have ended. That last hour, which feels like part two, was definitely too much and should have been left out.
Eric, I strongly disagree that the aboriginal part of the story should have been cut from this movie. Without that part of the story this could have been an American Western. It was really only that part of the movie that made it different. I also thought that Nullah was one of the most interesting characters in the movie.
If this movie had ended with the completion of the cattle drive I probably would have given it a half star more than I did. Everything is tied up neatly with a happy ending. It seriously feels like the movie is over at the point. When it keeps going it feels like a sequel. Practically everything is wrapped up at that point. I enjoyed the first half, but not enough that I was desperate to watch it for more than an hour more!
I also don't think that movie falls into as many genres as you claim Eric. There are some humorous moments but it's clearly not trying to be a comedy. And Nicole sings to Nullah, but it's not a musical. It is a Western Love Story with a bit of a war movie added to the mix. It's the war part that should have been cut, or been made the full focus of the story without the cattle drive stuff at the beginning.
There's just not enough depth to this movie to justify its length. Its like trying to spread too little butter across a large piece of toast. The further out you spread it, the thinner it gets.
Photos © Copyright Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation (2008)