The reviews were mixed and the running time long, but I wanted to see Australia anyway. I’ve loved all three of Baz Lurhrmann’s previous films, Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, and Moulin Rouge. Even if the movie was a mess, it would be an interesting one.
Like the other Luhrmann films, Australia isn’t distinguished by an original storyline but by its intent to entertain. Prim Englishwoman Lady Ashley goes to Australia to sell her husband’s farm. She gets caught up in a fight with nefarious cattle rivals. She bickers with a handsome cattle driver, Hugh Jackman, only ever named The Drover. She loosens up, then shows up in a beautiful dress*. Jackman shows up shaved and handsome in a tux. Cue the ending, except then the film goes on for another hour to tell another story.
I could sense the director’s passion that spurred his reach to exceed his grasp. I missed the more important role of music from his earlier films, but still appreciated the soundtrack. I’m glad I saw it on a big screen; even though it was flawed, it was a big story (or rather, stories) about a big country. I recognized the film’s flaws, like an unnecessary extra hour of a different story and an unfortunate reliance on the plot point of the noble savage/mystical native who teaches the stupid white people about tolerance and love. Yet I thoroughly enjoyed its 2 hour and 45 minutes. It’s for fans of Luhrmann’s films, and those who love sloppy, old-fashioned sweeping, sometimes weepy, movie magic.
*The red dress she wears, as with a pink one that precedes it, is lovely, but not enough, IMO, to deserve the Oscar for Best Costumes for the entire film.