Yesterday we were able to catch an early screening of the highly anticipated Australia. This is the first film from Baz Luhrmann since 2001’s Moulin Rouge! and there’s been an awful lot of chatter among those who like to chatter about such things (Oprah loves it!) over whether or not this film was going to bring it come award show time. We’ll leave the proper reviewing to the distinguished Rex Reed and Andrew Sarris next week, but we’ll throw in a couple cents in of our own in the meantime.
The first thing to say is just how mind-bogglingly big this movie is. At 165 minutes, it’s pretty long, and a lot gets covered: murder, cattle-driving, feminism, stampedes, fire, rain, making out in the rain, Aboriginal magic men, racism (wow, who knew Australia was so racist?), sexism, war, bombings, crocodiles, walkabouts, and gala balls. Everything is highly technicolored and beautiful in that inimitable Baz Luhrmann way, and Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman have never looked better. What’s really fun is trying to guess the influences as you watch (besides The Wizard of Oz, that is). Gone With The Wind is certainly in there. Ditto Lawrence of Arabia, Out of Africa, Empire of the Sun, Romancing the Stone (people might not see this, but for us? Big time!), and even just a smidge of City Slickers. There’s an old-fashioned quality to the film that we wonder how audiences, particularly young ones, will respond to; the kids will probably be fighting their way into more Twilight screenings anyway.
After all the buzz over the ending of the film — Mr. Luhrmann had reportedly not even finished it as of late last week (and maybe he was forced to give it a happier ending than what he had previously planned?) — it was distracting trying to see where the road not taken might have gone. But no matter. As reviews continue to dribble out, we’ll see just where in the Oscar shuffle this film is going to end up. And, is it a curse that People named star Hugh Jackman this year’s Sexiest Man Alive?