REVIEW – Australia

australiaOk, so, …clueless homage I’m incapable of stopping…

I really really really wanted to see this film. I’m a huge fan of the Luhrman (a life lived in fear is a life half lived and all that).
Strictly Ballroom – I’m still incapable of watching it without becoming an emotional wreck (with an intense and short lived desire to try ballroom) and obsessively looking up the actors and various strands of plot.

Romeo + Juliet – gods, I remember going to see this soooo well. We were all actually disappointed that Leo had been cast – we would have hugely preferred Jared Leto (Claire Dane’s romantic interest in My So-Called Life), but came out entranced. With Shakespeare, with Leo, with language, with music (I still believe that any of our group to hear the soundtrack would instantly recall the lyrics…in entirety!).

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Heck, I even bought Something for Everyone – the album with the sunscreen song. And loved it. Time after time will always be associated with faeries in my head…don’t ask

Moulin Rouge I saw my first month in Leeds – my adopted home…for now. Within a day I had the soundtrack. And sure, I might be a bit Willow, and stop it before it gets all sad…but why not? Other than the ending its the most sumptuous film outside of Bollywood! And the better for it! Ewan McGregor ……………. yumilicious………………………………

Sorry, I’m back.

So when I heard that Hugh Jackman (whom I’ve been following since Mum let me stay up to watch an episode of Correlli) was starring in a Luhrman film, I was so psyched! I’m a huge fan of Nicole Kidman also, so what could be better!! And an EPIC no less.

So then it started.

And there was a ‘dead person’ warning for those native to the continent.

And my heart sank.

In the opening exposition, they positioned Darwin geographically.

Which was worse.

And there was this weird moment when it all went very surreal and cute with an aboriginal kid and his gramps with mystic powers and a floaty map thingy, and I came thisclose to stopping the film there and then.

Thanks to all that’s holy that I didn’t!!!

I actually brightened briefly when NK appeared and was so delightfully Ra and the best of that generation of British women. And spoke in that peculiarly unique colonial way that only the non-nationals that flew the flag think the English speak!

I was a bit disappointed in the stereotypical portrayal of the white man gone native by Hugh Jackman – bar fight and all, but somehow managed to keep watching him as he manfully fought a salon-full of men, muscles rippling!

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And then, I’m not sure when, I became entranced!

It’s a spoof. I think.
And it’s Out of Africa.
And it’s Crocodile Dundee (with very close to a shared cast! In fact, its a veritable who’s who of Australian actors).
And it’s Grimm’s fairy tales.
And it’s a war film.
And a tragedy…and comedy…are you getting the well-round picture yet?!?!

And ‘over the rainbow’ is a character. Almost. Judicious use of the song anyway! (Factoid – the year this is set, the iconic Wizard of Oz was a new release!)

And it’s brilliant!!!

After an hour and a half of romping and cattle-ing (I’m so not the farming type), which was exhilarating, and violent and moving, (“too bloody right…too bloody right”…oh the romance in those simple, yet intense words. Not really, but you’ll see what I mean!!) the film completely changes, and becomes a graphic war movie – with no compromise in its portrayal as war as brutal and violent…though strangely swayed by native magicks…intriguing…

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I’m still not gone on child actors though. Christina Ricci, Dakota Fanning, Brad Renfrow (sob)…that’s about it. And after Whale Rider…well she was just fantastic. But for sheer guts and gobbery, the little boy in this is just great! The dynamic between him and his grandfather (since his portrayal in Crocodile Dundee the archetype for Aborigines – David Gulpilil) is electric.

Despite the epic environment (which has carried off many less ambitious films), this has a rich, if somewhat convoluted, storyline, and well developed, seemingly three dimensional, if odd characters. A host of familiar faces, playing the bizarre, the predictable and the gloriously ignorant capture you immediately, and completely pulled me into this delightful film.

As always, I’m captivated by David Wenham, which is slightly creepy as he is the villain of the piece. Fletcher- part threatening toadie, part Rhys Darby (a New Zealand comic that’s well worth a YouTube!), murderer and worthy adversary (in that twisted logic that pairs equals against one another!).

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Such a great actor, it took me ages to place him – the last man standing, Dillios, in 300, Faramir from the Lord of the Rings, and one of the bright shining stars of Australian film (ahem…or so wikipedia assures me). But I remember him best in his blink and you miss him portrayal of Aubrey in Moulin Rouge.

Oh, and in one oceanic scene, it completely out scales Titanic. Loved it.
A half hour later, it does the same thing to Pearl Harbour! Fabulous!

Frustratingly, the one thing I didn’t want for this film was for it to be rose coloured spectacle-d about race relations in Australia. I mean, this, the youngest of the continents has a horrendous record with Aboriginals – and while the systematic annihilation of that people is constantly referenced…heck out rightly shown (‘how else can we eradicate the blacks?’, from the leading doctor of the time and leaving the mixed race children on the spot most likely to be bombed was just so callous and matter of fact), there are enough touches of humanity – NK, and Fletcher’s lovely, if gullible in relation to her father and husband, wife, and certain other guilty bystanders – to sully the issue in my head. I know I’m being conned, but still…emotions are so easily twisted and swayed.
No, you know what, I’m going to change my mind here, the film doesn’t gloss over the genocide of Australia’s original inhabitants. The two characters that work for *PC TERM WARNING* ‘native rights’ are an outcast and and outsider.
And both are ridiculed for their humanity.

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The finale…well it’s everything that you would expect from a Baz Luhrman film. Dramatic, thought provoking, insightful, tragic and…blissful.

I’m not ashamed to admit I got a bit emotional when the church choir, the grandfather singing a traditional song and Over the Rainbow played. It was just…perfect cinema (granted ours is of the home variety!).

And, ok, so I’m still not overly fond of cute kid voiceovers…but this one was alright. Not too shabby at all.

***** Rating


One thought on “REVIEW – Australia

  1. Pingback: A few thoughts on The Great Gatsby | DrNeevil's Notes

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