It’s entirely appropriate that a movie called Australia should be directed by someone called Baz.
Ever since Barry Crocker and Barry Humphries did Barry McKenzie it’s a name that’s more representative of the country than just about any other.
Having said that, the earlier Barries managed to make their film a genuine (if narrowly-focused) cultural article, unlike the latter Baz’s odd mixture of nostalgic jingoism, selective cultural memory and a broad-brush style intended to mimic epic storytelling.
While Australia is trying hard to be Gone With The Wind, it ends up somewhere between We of the Never Never, Crocodile Dundee and Pearl Harbour.
That’s not to say it’s a bad film, but there’s probably one too many moments that provoke an unnecessary cringe . . . I’m thinking it’s around the fourth or fifth time Hugh Jackman says “Crikey!”
On top of that, Nicole Kidman is dreadfully miscast as uptight Brit Lady Sarah Ashley. While her stony-faced persona is fine in the early stages of the film, the story demands that she soften at some point and while you can see her Acting with all her might, it just never happens.
The film is really grounded by Hugh Jackman, who manages to channel the outback spirit as the otherwise nameless Drover. But even he can’t save a relationship doomed to a dire lack of chemistry. Where was Kate Winslet when this movie was being made?
Beyond these minor quibbles though, the film ticks all the right boxes.
The cinematography is Oscar-worthy, the cast is peppered with All The Big Australian NamesTM (Bryan Brown? Check. Jack Thompson? Check. Bill Hunter? Only for about two seconds . . . but check), and the story ticks along nicely making the film seem much shorter than its almost-three-hour running time.
It’s all highly entertaining, but probably not the cultural classic some were hoping for.
Still, it’s worth seeing if only for Hugh and Nic’s incredibly awkward kissing.
3.5 out of 5