I feel like it should really be called Australia!. Because it’s big! And epic! And just over two and a half hours long! And exhausting!
*ahem* Let me try again. Nicole Kidman is Lady Sarah Ashley, aristocratic Englishwoman. I know, she really is Australian, but she isn’t for this movie, so there. Her husband is in Australia!, running Faraway Downs, a cattle ranch he owns, but don’t worry about him because he’s conveniently gotten rid of early on. In spite of the fact that World War II is about to break out, Nicole goes to Australia! to bring him home, because they need money and that means selling the ranch, which hasn’t turned a profit in some time.
She shows up wearing a perfect blue and white travel suit and dragging matching luggage behind her, or rather, the porters are doing the dragging. And it really is matching luggage, because it’s blue and white, too. She first meets the ‘trusted man’ her husband as sent to meet her, The Drover, when he uses her luggage to beat up the guy he’s having a brawl with. The Drover is Hugh Jackman, who actually does get to be Australian, and unshaven, and inclined to punch first and ask questions later. He is not, however, fortunate enough to have a name, so everyone calls him The Drover. I think maybe it’s supposed to be a homage to Clint Eastwood in those spaghetti westerns where he didn’t have a name, because early on they try to make him look like Clint Eastwood.
There’s also a half-caste boy named Nullah (Brandon Walters), offspring of an aborigine woman and one of the Evil Guys. (It’s like a Bond movie in that respect — you know who the Black Hats are at a glance.) Main Evil Guys are Neil Fletcher (David Wenham — he was in 300, the narrator character that I kept hoping would drop dead) and “King” Carney (Bryan Brown, also an actual Australian playing an Australian), cattle baron of the north. There’s another king, too, which you know is going to cause problems — this one is called King George (David Gulpilil), an aborigine elder and grandfather to Nullah.
|Yes, it really is this melodramatic.|
And then EVERYTHING happens. Seriously. War breaks out. Shady business deals are brokered. Bombs fall. Fires are set. Cattle plummet to their deaths. People are eaten by crocodiles. Kids go missing. Hugh Jackman foxtrots. Nicole Kidman sings, for heaven’s sake. I’m getting exhausted again just thinking about it all. And it’s too much. I thought the movie was over about three times before it actually ended — they just kept throwing in more. It felt like the Movie that Never Ends.
Which would’ve been all right, if I’d been able to enjoy it more. But though it looks wonderful — even aside from the scenery, Nicole Kidman is her usual lovely self; and Hugh Jackman is absolutely dreamy — and now and then I did manage to get swept up into events, it really isn’t all that good. So I feel like I ended up exhausted for no good reason. The little boy actually manages to be a decent actor, in spite of some of the very silly stuff he has to do and odd lines he has to say — but I was so tired of his narration halfway through that I kind of felt like I was watching 300 again.
Two and three-quarters idols is the best I can do, though I suppose some people are going to object — Oprah, for instance, has been busy brainwashing her viewers into thinking this is a great film, I hear. Not that it’s quite bad, either, but it really isn’t ever as grand as the filmmakers wanted it to be, much as they obviously tried — and maybe that’s the problem, that they just tried too hard. Or maybe they really needed that exclamation point in the title.