Lurhmann and Kidman Team Up in Australia
December 15, 2008
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Oscar season is here, my friends! I have happily kicked off the season with the new Nicole Kidman epic Australia. Side by side with Hugh Jackman, Kidman shines in Baz Luhrmann’s beautiful love story.
Set in pre-World War II Australia, Australia tells the tale of Lady Sarah Ashley, who ventures to the outback to convince her husband to leave their estate and return to England. When she arrives in Australia, she finds her husband dead. She decides to take over their estate, which is used to raise cattle, in order to avenge her husband’s death by defeating their competition: Carney Cattle. Lady Ashley enlists the help of The Drover (Jackman) and they begin herding their cattle across the outback.
Riding along with them is Nullah, a half-Aborigine whose mother works for the Ashleys. Nullah is a smart, loud-mouthed kid whose curiosity leads him everywhere. Lady Ashley and The Drover look after him as they would their own child.
Besides dealing with the usual trials of a trip across a desert, they are also targets of two specific groups. One group is that of Carney Cattle, who is determined not to let them reach their destination. Led by the sleazy Neil Fletcher (David Wenham), they do anything they can (including poisoning the limited water supply and causing stampedes) to halt Lady Ashley’s journey. The other group in search of Lady Ashley’s faction is made up of local officials whose goal it is to place all mixed-race Aborigine children on Mission Island. These officials are desperate to send Nullah to the island, especially once they are bribed by King Carney (Bryan Brown).
Without giving a lot away, the Ashley clan completes their mission and Lady Ashley and The Drover are free to begin a romantic love affair and take in Nullah as their own. Everything is happily ever after. Or so we think. Then the war begins.
Part two of the film begins as World War II starts to come to Australia. As the Japanese were destroying as much as they could of the Pacific area, Australia became an obvious stop. The war obviously complicates things, especially for Lady Ashley, The Drover, and Nullah. The trio struggles to stay together as they are pulled to different places, subjected to warfare, and persuaded to evacuate. As war ensues, their love for each other grows stronger.
This film is epic to say the least. An abundance of themes, storylines, and conflicts saturates the movie at all times. Add to that scenes of war, a trip across a desert, and intrigue and you’ve got yourself one intense movie.
The one downside to all of these elements is that the film is literally about three movies all crammed into one. It’s a love story, it’s a war story, it’s a period piece, it’s a message about race, it’s political, and it’s so much more. The film has false endings numerous times, and at three hours and 15 minutes, those false endings do nothing but trick you into getting ready to leave while so much of the story still remains.
One part of Australia that is undeniably amazing is the photography. Every scene is beautifully photographed with an airy, heavenly aura. Even when the Ashley clan is in the middle of the desert, the landscape is constantly breathtaking. Lurhmann, a big fan of color (as seen in Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet), still manages to find a way to spice up the bare Australian scenery with vibrant color.
Overall, the acting and cinematography is top notch in Australia. The story drags a little, but if you’re in the mood for an epic love story, I’d give it a shot. I have a feeling this film will get some Oscar attention, if not for its costumes or writing, then certainly for its beautiful photography.