Australia - Movie Review


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I've never seen all of the first City Slickers, but I did happen to watch all of City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly's Gold and I'm pretty sure I got the gist. Even so, if you haven't managed to catch either of those two, you could always take a look at Baz Luhrmann's Australia. It's a very familiar experience, except without that charming gag where Daniel Stern thinks he was bitten by a rattle snake but actually just sat on a cactus. Excuse me while I giggle to myself uncontrollably for a few minutes.

Okay, I'm done.

Australia is the latest "epic" to feature action in the down-under. As I understand it, the term "epic" in moviemaking has come to equate itself with "really long and covering numerous set-pieces." I've never been drawn to films like this. The only reason I saw Gone With the Wind was because I was sick in middle school and didn't want to have to watch Stargate SG-1 reruns on a Sunday morning. I had all sorts of sick dreams that night. This film is a bit more upbeat at least. The story is centered around Lady Sarah Ashley who is far too posh for life on the ranch. Needless to say, she ends up living life on the ranch and teaming up with a man by the name of Drover, who, well, droves cattle, and together with a little Aborigine they face off against the evil ranch handlers competing for Australia's meat market. Luckily for them, Drover went to Bovine University and knows his stuff. But if only someone could tame that wild stallion... *sigh*

If you can't tell from his Red Curtain Trilogy (Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge) The director Baz Luhrmann has always had a flair for the theatrics. His films have been over-the-top, over-produced, and almost entirely thrive upon being simply "Spectacular! Spectacular!" In his endeavors his works have (at least for me) been wildly successful and exemplified endless ingenuity. But they worked because he was making plays into film, now the man wants to make a film into a play.

For the record, it nearly worked.

In fact, I decided I liked Australia just before it ended.

Then it continued for another hour.

Australia is structured as though it has act breaks and even an intermission, even if it doesn't have one. On stage (although I'm not sure how they'd manage some of it) I can definitely see it working. As an audience member I was very confused. I ended up watching Australia and it's sequel, Australia: The Legend of Curly's Gold back-to-back. It's a fish out of water story, and then it's a fish in water story with battle ships.


It can't be said that Australia is something that it shouldn't, or wasn't intended to be. It is what it is. Although it insists on being historically grounded, it can also heavily weigh in on the supernatural. Although it romanticizes a nation, it also heavily criticizes it. Moulin Rouge worked because it knew what it wanted to be and bought into it with such passion that it really didn't matter what the Bohemian culture was like in actuality, they could have just been hipsters who listened to the French equivalent of Animal Collective and drank absinthe, it only mattered what it was like within it's own world the film created. Australia can't take such liberties, and because of that it is inherently flawed.

So here's what it comes down to. It all comes down to comparing Australia to every other film depicting Australia, and I think just about every other one is more watchable. Rescuers Down Under, Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, and even the under-appreciated and also probably over-appreciated Kangaroo Jack, are frankly more entertaining. When it comes down to it, I don't think I'm willing to visit this particular version of Australia again. Rather, I think it's time I checked out City Slickers.

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