Monday, September 6, 2010
Written by Baz Luhrmann, Stuart Beattie, Ronald Harwood, Richard Flanagan
Starring Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Brandon Walters, David Wenham
chicky lady poo comes from england to bring her husband home from australia and the failing ranch they have there. he dies. she falls for hefty thick neck huge ackman otherwise known as "the drover". they also take an aboriginal boy under their whitey mcwhiteface wing. and all the while escaping the dastardly plans of faramir. failing ranch, cattle drive, success, rain, the japanese.
This is an interesting thing. I don't think that the movie was nearly as bad as what I remember reading and hearing about it, but it was the wrong movie. It was either a bloated 110 minute stock drama or an undersold, four-hour, true epic. Everything outside of the script points to the latter, so I'm going with that.
I joked before we began that I put the disc in the player unilaterally (rather than passive-aggressively, which is much more common in our house) so that Leila would have to write the synopsis. It borders on true irony that I now can't imagine that she'll have any real difficulty in writing it. We should have had more to work with. There should have been 10 or 15 minutes of backstory for each of the main characters (other than the kid, of course). Rather than being relegated to the role of paper-thin mustache twirler Faramir should have been upgraded to a main character with real pathos and at least somewhat-understandable motivations; and we needed more secondary characters with stories. That way, when everybody converged at the end the convergence would have meant more than "inevitable."
The production here was interesting, if not to my tastes. Direction and cameras were really good, as can be expected of a technician the likes of Baz, and everything was of a piece. While I disagree with the idea that the aesthetic should appear so soundstage-y, I appreciate it as a point of view and that point of view was executed well. Similarly, I found Kidman's performance and affectation to be off-putting, especially next to the naturalistic work of Jackman, the kid--who was actually pretty great--and Faramir; but again I see how reinforcing the wide gap between the aristocrat and commoners serves the story.
And the main thread of that story is engaging once you get past the jejune nature of the introductions. The motivations of the principal ("good") characters were quite clear. Sarah has a need to prove her worth in the man's world of the late 1930s while, due to some unexplained course of events, also improving her family's financial solvency; and some of the fleeting backstory defines The Drover well as a loner who really doesn't want the responsibility of a family. To see them come together around Nullah in their vastly different ways feels true to them and allows us to become invested in at least that part of the picture. It's easy to root for Nullah, and not only because he's the narrator. He's got the most to lose, he's the most sympathetic, and in Leila's words he's an "extremely beautiful kid." Just like a painted backdrop or a set, a story's backdrop must have enough detail to keep the viewer looking at the screen. Look much beyond Nullah's story and you're squinting into the sunlight.
The title "Austrailia," evokes scale, grandeur, Michner. The film does a good job of showing us a small piece of the island, which makes it all the more disappointing to know that there's so much more just outside of our grasp.
i might get shot in the face for saying what i'm about to say, but i didn't think this was as terrible as people lead me to believe. i don't really see a big difference between this and other epic old westerns. it was a bit slow moving and i do think it could have been edited down, and it may have been two separate movies, but i just wasn't as bored as i thought i would be. keep in mind we did watch this in two different sessions, so we had an intermission that lasted for about 6 hours.
the directing was beautiful, and i enjoyed the sound stage quality. i don't enjoy nicole kidman very much, and i think faramir is far better looking than huge ackman, but i was distracted most of the time by the most beautiful child to ever grace a movie screen. there could have been more character development, instead of weird empty plot movement too. i'm glad i've watched it and now that i have, i won't ever have to again.