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Dec 10, 2008

Fletch's Film Review: Australia

It's quite fortunate for me that certain words from other languages are melded into the boiling pot that is the English language and given the thumbs up for everyday use. For example, I probably can't say "Me and my hermano are going to a baseball game" without getting a sideways glance from a few people, or at the least some stalking by G.O.B. However, I won't get dirty looks from anyone if I call Australia a cliché-filled, cheesy catastrophe - well, if you don't count lovers of the film or people who say "freedom fries."

Now, if you're new to this world and experiencing things for the first time and happen to see Australia as your virgin theatrical experience, then by all means, love it. But it's hard to see why anyone who has ever seen a film before would love this one - they've seen everything that happens in it a million times before, all corners of the plot are telegraphed ("Stop") eons in advance, and "visionary" director Baz Luhrmann brings absolutely none of his skill set to the table. This is a film that could have been directed by anyone and no one would have been the wiser. Wait, that's not true - with the heavy Wizard of Oz influence and excess slow-motion, I might have thought this was John Woo's attempt at relevance. Lucky for us, though, there are no doves to be found.

All this is not to say that I didn't enjoy Australia; sure, it's an hour too long, wildly predictable, heavy-handed and wildly unimaginative, but it's not as though the script or acting are gawdawful. To be sure, the production values are excellent, and I found myself embracing it's badness about two hours in, smiling gleefully as the swiss and cheddar as they oozed out of that fine continent until it was squeezed dry. I played Count the Martyrs, Watch the Villain's Life Crumble Around Him, Transform the Fish Out of Water and Melt the Unmeltable, Independent Hero - they were all there, and they were fantastic.

Oh, and in case you don't know, hermano means brother.

Fletch's Film Rating:


A few additional random thoughts:

* I knew very little about Australia heading in, but I did know that the three big names involved were all Australian (technically, Kidman was born in Hawaii, but was raised in Australia and is know for being an Aussie). Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that she doesn't even play one. Here we have a movie about the continent of Australia, titled Australia, with the biggest Australian director and two of the most well-known Australian actors as its stars...and one of them plays a Brit. I don't know if this is just weird or if it's really dumb.

* Outside of that casting aberration, a pat on the back and a round of applause for the casting job. Bryan Brown hasn't been this involved with a feature this high profile since what, 1989? Nice to see him make a triumphant return. FF-UN vet David Wenham (LOTR, 300) makes for a good, weaselly villain, but is given little to work with, and Brandon Walters hits it out of the park as the bit-too-angelic Nullah. Finally, David Gulpilil completes his journey as the Most Recognizable Aboriginal Face as King George, coming a long way from his small yet memorable role in Crocodile Dundee (which I still can't turn off whenever it pops up on TV). If only they could have found a role for Paul Hogan, I might have forgiven all the bad stuff and outright loved Australia. Crikey.

* I almost forgot...yesterday was Blog Cabins' 2nd birthday. We've come along way, baby. Thanks to all of you for your faithful readership over this time. No other fanfare this year...maybe next.

13 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Australia"

Nick said...

I know what hermano means :P . And actually, it wouldn't be awkward at all to hear that sentence where I live. In south Texas, you hear Spanglish all the time. Hell, I used it basically everyday in the classroom during my student teaching.

Joe Baker said...

First off, who is this hermano guy?

(Arrested Development... hope it comes across better when you read it)

Secondly, I gave "Australia" a shot and left about an hour in... and I never walk out of movies. Whether it was a combination of me just not feeling so hot or looking at my watch at the hour mark and saying to myself... I honestly have an hour and 45 more minutes to go??

I think where this thing went off the rails for me was the scene where Kidman sees a group of kangaroos out the window, the camera slowly pans in (and we all know what's coming) and then that EXAGGERATED shriek she bellows out with this cartoonish look on her face directly in front of the camera. This thing just grated on my nerves like it was a Disney cartoon.... and a lazy cartoon at that. I couldn't take it anymore.

Jason Bellamy said...

Happy Birthday, Blog Cabins

David Bishop said...

I would have called that exaggerated shriek one of the few moments where Baz's direction, or at least what I'm used to being Baz's direction, comes through. There were a few other hints of that Luhrmann acting style that I could see in the film as well.

Robb said...

I'm hardly objective here, but I loved Australia. In my previous life as an actor I worked with Luhrmann on his Broadway production of "La Boheme" and, for an actor, he is the Real Deal. I've been waiting for this to come out for ages (since stupid Oliver Stone rushed his stupid Alexander movie and Baz had to scrap his own in-progress epic and start from scratch on this one).

Was the movie a little long? Yeah, I can't deny that. But as far as not being original - isn't that kind of the point? Look back at Moulin Rouge, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. The story is very simple, a rehash of a couple of operas put together. What makes the movie so magical is the WAY he tells the story. Australia isn't nearly as crazy as the Red Curtain Trilogy was, but still he takes a familiar genre and tells it fairly straightforwardly, but in his inimitable style. (Well, his and Catherine Martin's style.)

I can understand your quibbles. But I walked in ready for the ride, and walked out loving it. What can I say, I drank his cool-aid years ago. :)

Sea-of-Green said...

Has Kidman EVER protrayed an Australian in any movie she's made?

Seems like she's depicted everything BUT an Australian.

Fletch said...

Nick, for you and I, the casual use of Spanish is no big deal, but for someone in North Dakota, it probably is. Don't forget - I have a global audience. ;)

Joseph - thank you for making my extended Arrested Development joke worthwhile. Funny that you walked out. You missed all the good stuff! :D

Thanks, Jason!

David (and Robb, too), even thinking back, I didn't recall thinking "wow, that's so Baz!" at the shriek or any of the other over-the-top moments. Lame, perhaps, but not specific to anyone.

Though, Robb, very cool about your past life.

And I know it's just one movie, but Moulin Rouge was nothing if not original. How many musicals set in eons-ago France are scored to modern rock songs?

S_O_G - What about Deep Calm (or whatever that ocean one with Sam Neill was called)? That was before her big break in the U.S., so I think she wasn't ashamed of being an Aussie just yet.

Nick said...

Fletch: Are you implying I don't have a global audience?!


Or not...

Anyway, who cares about them yankees! They don't know what they're missing with the awesome fun that is Spanglish. :P

Farzan said...

Havent seen it yet, but I heard this film was a mixed bag. Some liked it while others hated it.

Anonymous said...

Your review echoes what I've heard so far about "Australia": Predictable, bloated and overwrought. However, I'm told that the cinematography is amazing, so maybe it would be a better film to watch -- sound off -- as a soothing background for a steak-and-barbecued shrimp dinner.

I have to say I'm a bit disappointed. I expected more from the wild, colorful mind of Baz Luhrmann.

THN said...

Wow, you started Blog Cabins on Sammy's birthday? Awesome.

Daniel said...


That's a pretty big deal, even if it isn't celebrated as one.

And yeah, Australia almost "drove" me out of the theater.

You'll get it if you see the movie...

Fletch said...

Nick - Of course not. I know that you have, in fact, galaxy-wide appeal. Maybe you should pepper in some Spanglish into your blog...

Sarah - the cinematography is good but not great, though I found myself wondering how much was CGI - which must mean that the CGI was pretty good overall. There were a few scenes that were a little too fakey, but for the most part, the looks were the best part (though still not like jaw-droppingly beautiful or inventive, though).

THN - Um, yeah, I guess. Call me crazy, but you probably the birthdays of the Rat Packers off the top of your head, don't you? If so, how deep into the Pack does your knowledge go? Bishop?

Thanks, Daniel! I feel like I overcelebrate sometimes, and this one falls shortly after the LAMB's, which I did celebrate, so I thought I'd take a few plays off.

"drove" - haha.