Australia

Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman star in Australia , one of the most ambitious movies of the year. Best of the year? Not really. The director, Baz Luhrmann is an immensely talented guy who has done Romeo+Juliet and one of my favorite movies, Moulin Rouge. He hasn’t directed in 7 years, 3 of those years gone into planning and shooting this.

The film suffers from bipolar disorder. In order, it shifts from comedy to romance to western to drama to comedy to western to action to romance to comedy to drama to western to action to romance. Well, it is three hours, so I suppose it can’t be all too consistent.

Lady Ashley has come from England to Australia in 1939 to purchase a cattle farm called Faraway Downs. When she arrives there she learns her husband is dead. When a greedy opportunist tries to seize control of Faraway Downs, Lady Ashley teams up with Mr. Drover to save Faraway Downs and drive 2,000 cattle from the Downs to Darwin , in order to supply the military with meat.

Afterwards, Lady Ashley and Mr. Drover fall in love, but 2 years later Drover leaves for a driving mission and Lady Ashley for Darwin – right during the attack on Darwin . Can they survive?

There’s just about something for everyone in here – I suppose thats a curse and a blessing. Hugh Jackman is in top form here, and although Nicole Kidman at the first 30 minutes is whiny and screechy, in the last 2 1/2 hours she turns in a really good performance. The young boy who plays the adopted Aboriginal boy is also really really good, there are top-form performances EVERYWHERE.

The action is quite well-paced, and one scene has such breathtaking beauty it could be the must-see scene of the year. (Want a final opinion? Tune in January for the 2nd Annual Ryan Michaels Awards!) The comedy is mostly based on how stuck up Nicole Kidman is, but what does that matter.

But alas, the first 45 minutes are so unwatchable in so many ways. If you end up seeing them, just say to yourself, “Ryan said the last 2 hours are awesome, I can get through it!” In actuality, the first 45 minutes probably could have been cut out completely and replaced with a 5-minute narration.

The romantic parts are good, and surprisingly most of the dialogue is actually fairly good for a romance. There was one part though, where I was cracking up uncontrollably.

So alas, Australia is an old-fashioned epic in the sense of Gone With The Wind. Mind you, Australia doesn’t even come close to the sheer masterpiece that is Gone With The Wind, but it’s a good ol’ time at the movies. Mind you, it is something of a mixed bag. B

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