On October 5 I was surprised to see that the preview screening I got to be a part of was Australia by Baz Luhrmann. This was a very rough version of the film, the color timing wasn’t finished, visual effects were rough at best, and the film did not have it’s score in place amongst many other things.
I’m going to start with the negatives of the film, but keep in mind that as this was a rough version it is doubtful that my negatives will stay negatives once all of the films elements are put together. First, there are tonal shifts in the film that don’t feel completely out of place, but they do feel clunky. However, I have full confidence that once the film is finished these tonal shifts will not feel out of place. Also, there were a few things that were kind of hard to follow – characters moving from a to b, etc. but again, I think this will go away.
I’m also going to address what I think people will really object to in the film – it’s length. The film clocks in at almost three hours at this present time, and that is without titles. I believe it is perfect at that length. Yes, it’s long, but I do not think there is anything that could be trimmed from this movie without eliminating an entire necessary point of the film. Australia is a rich old fashioned film, with many characters, plot lines and elements that are all intertwined through the course of the film. Removing even one scene would necessitate removing entire storylines from the picture. Just sit still, get pulled into the story and you will not notice the time.
Now to the positives. I knew after seeing Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge that Baz can direct a film and do it beautifully, and I knew that Australia would be in a different style. What I did not expect was for the movie to be as sweepingly beautiful as it is. Baz needs to win a best director Oscar some day and I think he can possibly do it for this movie – and that opinion is based on a rough cut of the film.
Another HUGE positive is the actors in the film led primarily by Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman. They are phenomenal in this film and really seem to connect with the material in a very personal way since it’s about their home country.
The journey Kidman takes from tight-laced ice queen to open hearted maternal figure is utterly genuine and so gradual and motivated that you can’t see anything else happening to her character. This is a character that is forced to grow up and mature in a whole other way than an adolescent would and watching her do it is fascinating.
That being said I think that Hugh Jackman steals the show. I truly thought his performance in The Fountain was mesmerizing and Oscar worthy, and I think his turn in Australia again proves that he is one of the best actors of this generation. He truly is the stuff of old Hollywood and has a charisma that would rival Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart – the man was discovered in Australian theatre to play a comic book character and has somehow parlayed that into mainstream Hollywood and art house films. When he walks on screen he immediately captures the entire audience male and female and I think Baz Luhrman needs to count his lucky stars that Russell Crowe dropped out of the role because Hugh brings an almost boy-next-door quality to the Drover character that Russell Crowe just doesn’t have in him.
It is my hope and prayer that 20th Century Fox does not mess with this movie before it is released, and I hope to be just as thrilled when I see the final theatrical cut of the film which I will be reviewing as well.
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Writers: Baz Luhrmann, Stuart Beattie, Ronald Harwood, Richard Flanagan
The Drover: Hugh Jackman
Lady Sarah Ashley: Nicole Kidman
Nullah: Brandon Walters
King Carney: Bryan Brown
Neil Fletcher: David Wenham
Kipling Flynn: Jack Thompson
Dutton: Ben Mendelsohn
Katherine: Essie Davis