Baz Luhrmann’s new flick, Australia has for a while now been considered an Oscar favorite. Reviews are just starting to hit from the outback and they’ve been less than raves, even if Oprah Winfrey tried to ride in and save the crumbling buzz.
The early buzz was describing it as Out of Africa meets Gone With the Wind, but it turns out that was probably just studio PR magic. Anyway, considering the movie comes out on Nov. 25 and Luhrmann was still tinkering with it only weeks ago, a decent to good flick may be the ceiling on this one.
But if you’ve got a lady friend you have probably already admitted to yourself that you are seeing this movie when it opens Nov. 25. It’s penance for fantasy football. I’ve never been a fan of Baz Luhrmann’s over-the-top audacity, never been much for his lyrical love stories and yet… I’m willing to give this one a chance.
Maybe because I like both Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman or maybe because I’m a sucker for audacious historical love stories. It’s just that Luhrmann has always struck me as a technical wiz-bang idea guy, rather than an actual filmmaker. His stories just seemed forced or interesting ideas that don’t translate well to film. With this one, I’m hoping he takes a deep breath, calms down and delivers some true magic.
David Stratton of The Australian: Like his earlier films Strictly Ballroom, Romeo+Juliet and Moulin Rouge, Australia shows Baz Luhrmann as a very theatrical director. He has a great eye for compositions and the film is beautifully shot by Mandy Walker, but there’s theatricality about the film which is a bit off-putting at the beginning. The early scenes, even the first 20 minutes or so of the film, are handled in a slightly artificial, arch manner which doesn’t sit well with the outback locations and the natural settings of the story.
It’s all very well to be artificial when you’re dealing with a theatrical concept like Moulin Rouge or even Strictly Ballroom, but it doesn’t really work so well when you’re doing the same sort of thing here, so there’s something that’s just a little bit off key about these scenes. Then once the cattle drive gets under way either you get used to it or that aspect of it is played down because the remainder of the film is much stronger in a rather conventional way.
Louise Keller of Urban Cinephile: The detail which Luhrmann has injected into this project is incredible and probably impossible to fully appreciate on first viewing. Even the inclusion of Rolf Harris’s famous wobble board plays its part as does the way the musical themes from The Wizard of Oz and Waltzing Matilda weave their way into the fabric of the tale. As the credits roll, we take with us the spectacular imagery of a unique, vast land, as well as the haunting face of an innocent little boy whose culture is becoming invisible.
From Anne Barrowlcough of the Times Online: In the worst Mills and Boon tradition, Lady Sarah – whose emotions are as frozen as Kidman’s forehead – and the rough neck Drover loathe each other on sight but, as they endure the harsh and rather dusty travails of the cattle drive they quite quickly fall in love. She even teaches him to dance. Under a boab tree.
But if it sounds shallow and predictable, Australia is, in fact, anything but.
The cliches are saved by little jokes and asides, as if Luhrmann is saying ‘Yes, I know, but what can you do?’ In an early scene, as the newly-arrived Sarah drives toward her station, Faraway Downs, with Drover, a herd of kangaroo lopes alongside their vehicle.
Only a scattering of reviews have come in so far, but it sounds like it could be an enjoyably mixed bag.