I have finished my treat of DVD for review movies. "Australia" is billed as a tribute to the "golden age" of movies. The opening credits however reminded me of Indiana Jones. Nonetheless the Baz Luhrmann film has proven the wags wrong. The film is no Outback Waterworld!
Anyway the film lives up to its Aussieness. There are a lot of Australian private jokes in the movie and only blokes and sheilas who have lived long enough in Oz can get the punchline.
Example 1: all newbies to Oz are enthralled to see hopping kangaroos. The ooooohs and ahhhs I have heard in Billabong sanctuary years before. But then something typically Aussie happens to the roo. Guess!?!? (Clue: When I first landed in Australia when I was an overseas student there, the first roo I saw in Oz was a roadkill.)
Example 2: Also when Nicole Kidman's aristocratic character goes down the gangplank and into the wharf, she tries to check into a "hotel", where in Oz a hotel is a pub. She walks right into a bar room brawl and her knickers fly through the air!
Obviously the actors and actresses never tried to reduce their Strine for the American viewer. If there is anything that American viewers should realise is that the late Steve Irwin's speech NEVER represented what real Strine is all about.
Nicole Kidman played her role as Lady Ashley very well. A typical Aristocractic Pommie tart with a "plum in her mouth", she inevitably turned into the quintessential Australian icon, the Larrikin. If ever there was a screen definition of a larrikin, Hugh Jackman's "Drover" represents it well.
But we can't help but notice the preachiness of the film that is purely ALP (Australian Labor Party) or Australian Democrat of Natasha Stott-Despoja. The film thus is unbelievable. Its some sort of political correctness CGI set in late 1930s Australia! How could a drover stand up for women's rights and aboriginals in the 1930s and NOT get shunned by the mob? The bloke jokes on females are still heard in the 21st century even in Double Bay or Kirribilli!
The line " Just because it is, doesn't mean it should be" is didactic line to teach non Aussies on how far the country has gone forward in dealing with racism. Perhaps the most heartwrenching tales of the Stolen Generation come from testimonies by the children taken away from their aboriginal parents often with approval from the Church. These children have lost their identity and some have been sexually abused. Of course the film cannot delve into this subplot. For God's sake the damned film is 3 hours long!
Of course the comment on egalitarian Australia's stratified society was best shown by the ball scence. This still exists today but unlike in the 1930s, the aristocrats and moneyed barons are all Republicans! (Not Republican Party but Australians for a Republic)
Of course the best actor is Aboriginal actor Brandon Walters who played Nullah who wasn't stereotyped unlike the other Aboriginal actors. In a terrible tip of the hat to the idea of a "noble savage" the movie stereotypes Aborginals as magicians. It is so 19th century European. Indigenous peoples are just shown as curiosities. They might as well had Truganini in the screenplay!
Of course Jack Thompson's Kipling Flynn adds a touch of larrikin adventure in the movie. As for the villain David Wenham's Neil Fletcher, I can't get over the shock of an Evil Faramir. But it seems that a 1930s Chicago mobster got translocated in the Northern Territory speaking Evil Strine.
As for the shooting locations, at least Luhrmann avoided the usual sickening tourism cliches of 1) Sydney bridge and opera house, 2) that heart shaped reef in Queensland, 3) the Gold Coast. Luhrmann shows Australia as she is, fair dinkum. What John Williamson sings as "crystal skies and diamond stars" as shown in the film, is really how it is. I should know I have lived in northern Australia.
And all of these happen on an isolated country threatened by war. And then comes Australia's Pearl Harbor in Darwin.