By Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer of HeidiTown.com Australia is a big movie, about a big country, with a big history. It strives to be a love story, an historical drama, a war movie, an epic – unfortunately, these attempts at grandeur are the movie’s downfall.
Set in 1939, the movie follows Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) as she travels from England to Australia where her husband, Lord Ashley, is the unsuccessful owner of a cattle station. Before Lady Ashley arrives to the desolate cattle station called “Faraway Downs,” her husband is murdered.
Lady Ashley finds herself alone in the outback struggling against a cattle baron who is trying to buy her ranch for a fraction of what it is worth. Her only friends are the aboriginal workers at the ranch, including a young half-white/half-aboriginal boy named Nullah, and a loner called “Drover” (Hugh Jackman). The name Drover comes from his job as a cattle driver. He may be the “sexiest man alive,” but this role will not be netting Hugh Jackman any Oscar nominations. He’s as dull as the CGI cattle he drives.
CGI stands for “computer generated imaging.” From cows to sunsets, CGI is used frequently during this film. In many ways, Australia is a western, with sweeping views of the dusty outback, cattle drives, good guys and bad guys. The use of CGI seemed unnecessary for this kind of movie, and it often acted as a distraction from the story. Is there some sort of shortage of long horned cattle in Australia? Is a regular sunset just not good enough for Hollywood anymore?
The first thirty minutes the movie plays like a Disney flick; the humor and silliness may resonate with some audiences, but left me rather bewildered when the movie suddenly takes a turn towards the ultra-dramatic.
It’s as though the filmmakers wanted to shed light on Australia’s uncomfortable history surrounding the aboriginal integration program of the 1930’s, often referred to as “the stolen generation.” However, the filmmakers barely scratch the surface of the issue and in doing so it seems they diminish the issue. If you want to see a moving film about the struggles of “the stolen generation” watch the film Rabbit Proof Fence.
Nicole Kidman is Australia’s saving grace. She is highly entertaining as the feisty Lady Ashley, a character similar to Kidman’s character, Shannon Christie, in Far and Away (1992). Australia has been billed as an “epic romance,” but Kidman’s interaction with the young actor who plays Nullah is much more moving than her chemistry with Hugh Jackman. While they make a stunning onscreen couple, there appeared to be little love connection between the Drover and Lady Ashley.
There is a nod to The Wizard of Oz in the movie. The song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is featured throughout and little Nullah becomes obsessed with the sentiment of the song. However, with an already overly dramatic story, the addition of this song was like extra sweet icing on a super sugary cake.
With the unnecessary use of CGI in scene after scene, a script that tries to tackle too many issues and the lack of chemistry in the onscreen romance Australia is just too over the top, and too long for me to recommend seeing at the theater.
To read move of Heidi’s take on movies, DVD’s, restaurants and more, visit her online at HeidiTown.com.
Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer is a writer living in Northern Colorado with her husband, feisty cat and clever German Shepherd. She is a contributing writer at the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor, as well as co-owner of Ryan Schlaefer Fine Furniture, Inc. available at the Denver Design District. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Heidi has a B.A. in Political Science from Western Washington University. She has always loved movies, books and food; she explores all three at www.HeidiTown.com.