Having “mixed emotions” is how best to describe my feelings about this film. Initially I wanted to see it in theaters; eventually that wore off and instead I settled for the DVD. Now, the only question that remained – was it worth that wait?
We begin with a young boy, Nullah, fishing with his grandfather in the wilds of Australia. Nullah is a half-caste, neither white nor aborigine, because of that; he “belongs” with no one. Lady Sarah Ashley (Nichole Kidman) is a proper English rose whose husband has been living in the outback of Australia. His quest being unsuccessful, Sarah has decided to travel to Australia to “bring Maitland home!” herself. After a humiliating meeting with the man who was to meet her, whom everyone simply calls The Drover (Hugh Jackman), Sarah is taken to the house her husband calls “home.” What Sarah discovers upon her arrival is her husband’s death and a greedy land baron attempting to buy up Ashley land in order to enrich himself. Little does Sarah know what adventures await her on this new quest. With a minor victory behind them, Drover and Sarah start anew and this time with much more at stake – not the least of which is a world on the brink of war.
Hearts, cultures and want for power all collide in the land down under molding into this, a beautiful motion picture. This film offers many things, and chances are, no matter what your genre of choice, something will appeal to you. To be honest, I did not expect much from this (reviews weren’t favorable); still there was something about it… perhaps it’s the spectacular Gone with the Wind styled posters or the a-list cast, but whatever, nothing persuaded me to “forget” about it once the credits rolled. Australia is a touching and often times funny film – watching this the first time had me in fits of giggles and mourning with the characters. Perhaps the most surprising was that humor; before fifteen minutes pass, the audience is equally enthralled by its wit as we are by its ability to move us – namely in the parting between Sarah and Nullah. Of course, one cannot forget the sweeping romance, either. Jackman and Kidman were well cast together and even with two other actors originally considered for the role Jackman ultimately played, for a “fall-back” guy, he seemed suited. There was chemistry between the leading couple whether they were kissing in the rain or happily reunited, their blossoming love was evident. Likewise Kidman was memorable as Sarah. She can leave the audience laughing or bring us to tears at her capacity to love.
If I had to seriously criticize the film, it’d be because of the horseback scenes, while the actors were riding, it never looked realistic; the director often opted for close-up shots of their faces which is painfully fake. With all of today’s technology and the nine plus months it took to film, you would think realism possible, however when the Japanese bomb Australia, the CGI department more than makes up for its mediocrity previously. The pure destruction left behind was devastating to not only its characters but the viewer as well. Additionally, leaving much to be desired is the opening to this film; the unorganized introduction to so many characters makes for a confusing start in addition to Nullah’s continuous narration. Costuming for the ball was uniquely stunning, but perhaps unworthy of its Oscar nomination. So, the unanswered question – was it worth the wait? Happily, I was able to say, yes! I confess I loved it, much more than expected. It was humorous, adventurous and romantic, something for everyone. Despite the ending having been changed (and the second ending is much better, believe me), it’s still bittersweet. In one way you understand and know that after two plus hours, the film must close but there is another part of you that wants something different to have happened or simply a “perfect” conclusion. There aren’t too many moral values in the movie, but it does redeem itself with sacrifices by characters, the genuine love Sarah held for the child she would never have and another characters realization of the love he has lost, because of fear. As long as you know you are in for a long drawn-out (but never tedious) saga, I heartily recommend Australia for older audiences. Its one epic I haven’t forgotten.
(Rated PG13, there are a few minor violent acts. Two men are stabbed with spears; we see one lying in a pool of blood and his horse soaked in it. Another character is stampeded and is shown with terrible injuries. A woman drowns; another man is shot. A man briefly slaps around a woman and child. Animals are shot [unseen] or injured, cows go over a steep cliff. Bombs are dropped, destroying a town and killing or injuring numerous people. There are reference to Aboriginal mistresses, including comments about their “half-caste” children, and one or two “crude” sexual innuendoes. There is a brief sensual scene between an unmarried couple; brief close up shots of kissing and caresses before we see them lying in bed with some movement and bare legs. There are a couple of other visual innuendoes. Profanity is infrequent, but sadly a use of the f-word is present. Caution also comes with the use of “magic”; Nullah supposedly possesses some form of it.)