Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Australia

posted by Nell Minow
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some violence, a scene of sensuality, and brief strong language
Profanity:Brief strong language
Nudity/Sex:Non-explicit sexual situation, suggested nudity
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking, strong alcohol as a sign of courage and companionship, character abuses alcohol
Violence/Scariness:A lot of cowboy-style and wartime violence, guns, explosions, characters and animals injured and killed
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:November 26, 2008
DVD Release Date:March 3, 2009

Writer/director Baz Luhrmann is known for his surprises. In Strictly Ballroom, William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet , and Moulin Rouge! he created visual and musical mash-ups of classic and pop that achieved, sometimes apparently accidentally, some transcendence and that were just about always a lot of fun.

But this big epic is told absolutely straight and is all the duller for it. The moment we see the tight little walk of Lady Sarah Ashley (could there be a more snore-ific character name) in her immaculate little suit with the veiled hat, we know it is her destiny to meet a dusty cowpoke and Learn a Few Things, probably involving some earthy cattle, some frolicking in water with said cowpoke, some enlightening experiences involving earthy native peoples, an look of growing appreciation and approval from the earth-smeared cowpoke as he discovers that she has some spunk, a test of her mettle, and a new appreciation for, well, earthiness.

It all unfolds like a script that could have starred John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara and probably did at some point. Three Aussies (one playing a Brit) have made a movie that gives us no special feel for the country’s landscapes, culture, and history. The one attempt to engage us with something meaningful, the authorized abduction of mixed-race children for government-run camps, has little of the power of the fact-based “Rabbit-Proof Fence.” Re-cuts are evident in a last half-hour that seems to end three or four times with two too many reversals. The setting, timing, and accents may be new but there isn’t one line, one plot development, one bad guy, or one adorable urchin that we have not seen before, anything that feels new, or real, or arresting. It’s always nice to see pretty people in grand vistas doing great things and falling in love as the music swells, but in telling the story that should have been most his own, Luhrmann has ceded his vision to someone else.



  • ChatteringMind

    Nell,
    Took my fourteen-year-old son to see “Australia” last night, and I agree with the gist of your review here. However, I want to make a positive pitch to parents: in the grand scheme of things, this is a fabulous movie for today’s teens. For one thing, this movie shows two people falling in love the old fashioned way–slowly, over time, learning to see each others strengths and merits. The film also has some really nice Hollywood kissing in it! It’s romantic in a way few recent films presentable to teens have been. My son loves war movies, so this flick fit the bill nicely there. The bad guy is really bad, the leading lady is a lady who grows up and gets off her high horse, and there’s a hugh pay off for moms who’ve grown tired of the Hollywood cads out there who pass for leading men: Hugh Jackman–oh my– is a hunk in the tradition of Clark Gable in “Gone with the Wind,” and Daniel Day Lewis in “Last of the Mohicians.” I was swooning, sort of fanning myself. Luckily, my teen didn’t notice.

  • http://www.scriptsbywarren.com wesage

    I agree for the most part to this review, but to say that I probably liked it more than you did. I believe that the old fashioned and corny feel of the movie was on purpose. It seems that since the film was set in 1939, the year that Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz came out, that they wanted to tell a story in the manner of films of the era. I thought it had the feel of Gone With the Wind, and yes… Jackman seemed like a Clark Gable and I think that was on purpose. The scene where he walks into the ball and all the music stops and everyone turns to look at who entered… that was a bit much. He was a nobody, why would they care? But I have to admit, I got caught up in the story and the romance and the suspense and it moved me a few times. For me, more like B+.

  • Your Name

    For the most part I disagree with the critic’s dissatisfaction with the movie Australia. Yes, in the beginning of the film, Lady Sarah and Driver are too stereotypical, even cartoonish. However, there are so few grand epics made these days. It was wonderful to see a story in which two strong characters fall in love in the classic sense against a background that was beautiful. Watching Hugh Jackman for several hours can’t possibly hurt anyone!
    Truly people will fall in love with Australia after seeing this film.
    The scene stealer, however, is the aborigine boy. He was incredible.
    My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this movie from a purely entertainment point of few. It had little swearing, gratuitous violence or in your face sex. Cheers for more epics in the classic Hollywood sense.

  • Alicia

    Hi, Nell,
    Saw it with my mother over Thanksgiving weekend. Liked it – much better than Moulin Rouge, which I thought was a mess (if an interesting mess) and thought Nicole and Hugh were good together, and it was much more entertaining than I thought it would be. An old-fashioned Hollywood epic, sort of a pastiche of “The Sundowners,” “Gone with the Wind,” and “Pearl Harbor.”
    They even managed to cast the grand old man of Aboriginal actors, “Walkabout’s” David Gulpilil as King George.
    On the downside, I thought the set-up with the villain was straight out of “Dudley Do-Right.” I was surprised that old “Snidely Whiplash” didn’t tie Sarah to the railroad tracks to get her to give up her ranch. On the other hand, Hugh Jackman was to die for, and Brandon Walters, who played Nullah, was a real cutie-pie. Now I have to see “Rabbit-Proof Fence” which I’m sure is much better about the story of the stolen Aboriginal children.

  • Nell Minow

    A great comment, as usual, Alicia! (And apologies for the difficulty in posting. I hope they work out the kinks soon.) I loved your references to “Sundowners” and “Walkabout,” both of which I thought of while watching the film. And I agree about the villain being over the top! And about Hugh, one of my favorites. Thanks so much!

  • Alicia

    Thanks, Nell. I just recently saw “The Sundowners” for the first time, and “Walkabout” is a classic – such a beautiful film.
    I’ll be on vacation for the next week or so, and I just got Netflix, so I’m planning to watch lots of films, including “Rabbit-Proof Fence.”
    Cheers!

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