Australia Review
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Aussie director Baz Luhrmann isn’t one of those directors who crank out a movie a year. In fact, it’s been seven long years since Luhrmann released his last movie (and the third movie in his “Red Curtain Trilogy”), Moulin Rouge!.

But, as the old saying goes, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” So, after seven years of waiting, I was almost as excited to see Luhrmann’s Australia as teenage girls were excited to see Twilight. Almost. And, fortunately, it didn’t disappoint.

Australia tells the story of prim and proper Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman), who decides to leave her pampered life in England and travel to the Australian outback to retrieve her husband and sell Faraway Downs, the cattle ranch that’s kept him from her.

When she arrives in the small town of Darwin, Sarah meets up with a rough cattle drive known as The Drover (Hugh Jackman), who’s supposed to bring her to the ranch. When they arrive, however, she finds that her husband has been murdered—supposedly by aboriginal medicine man King George (David Gulpilil).

Sarah soon learns that ranch hand Neil Fletcher (David Wenham) was secretly helping Australia’s wealthiest cattleman, King Carney (Bryan Brown), in his attempt to take over Faraway Downs. So, determined to fight for what’s hers, she fires Fletcher and decides to try her hand at ranching—with some help from The Drover and an aborigine boy named Nullah (Brandon Walters).

Since it’s over two and a half hours long, this $130 million epic drama has plenty of time for a little bit of everything: drama, romance, action…even the occasional touch of humor. There’s a plethora of plots (including the competition with Fletcher and Carney, Sarah’s relationship with Drover, Sarah’s relationship with Nullah, and even the coming of WWII), and the cast of characters is enormous. There’s so much going on, in fact, that it often feels as though Luhrmann had originally set out to make another trilogy—eventually choosing to cut it down and make one [very] long movie instead. And I’ll freely admit that I couldn’t always follow what was going on (due, in part, to some of the thick Australian accents). But the beauty of Australia is that you don’t really need to follow all of the details to thoroughly enjoy the film. You can just sit back and enjoy the ride. For the most part, you’ll know what’s coming; there’s nothing especially shocking or thought-provoking about it. It’s just a beautiful—and even majestic—film that’s simply a delight to watch.

Kidman is perfect for her role as the pampered English Lady who finds herself in a completely unfamiliar world. She’s lovable from beginning to end—even in early scenes, when she’s prissy and demanding and appalled by everything. Jackman, too, makes a lovable (and, perhaps, lustable) scamp. But the actual star of the film is the title character: Australia itself. Luhrmann carefully and lovingly films the Australian outback, showing it in grand, sweeping shots that will take your breath away.

Though it’s not as blatantly quirky as the director’s previous films, Australia still has Luhrmann’s signature stylized touch. For those who are unfamiliar with Luhrmann’s work, it might take some getting used to, but you’ll quickly find that it’s Luhrmann’s remarkable style that makes the film so enjoyable: it’s beautiful, it’s grand, it’s romantic…and it’s different. It’s good to have you back, Baz.

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