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Monday, March 21, 2011

Australia (2008)

In 1939 Australia, a prim English aristocrat (Nicole Kidman) arrives in Darwin to force her husband to sell his cattle ranch in Northern Australia. When she arrives at the ranch only to find her husband has been killed, instead of selling the ranch she begins to round up the cattle (which have escaped) to take to Darwin to sell and slowly but surely comes to love, not only Australia, but the bi-racial aborigine child (Brandon Walters) and the independent drover (Hugh Jackman) who agrees to help her. Baz Luhrmann directs this big (almost 3 hours in length) scale, old fashioned epic. There's nothing particularly original about it but there's clearly an affection for the historical romance genre and the film is grandly entertaining. Luhrmann's use of soundstage exterior sets, whether by intention or budgetary restraints, actually help the illusion of watching an old movie from the 1940s. Fortunately, Kidman and Jackman (mercifully Russell Crowe bowed out) have a marvelous chemistry which makes the romance unforced. The child, Brandon Walters, is an amazing child actor. I don't know if he's a natural or Luhrmann had to coax the performance out of him but it's probably the best performance by a child actor I've seen since Anna Paquin in THE PIANO. The score by David Hirschfelder makes the best use of the song Over The Rainbow since the 1939 film. With Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson and David Gulpilil.

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