MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland

Review – The Trouble With AUSTRALIA

I love Luhrmann.
I do. I think he is one of those directors who has incredibly good taste, loves to walk on the tightrope without a net (his logo at the top of Australia includes the line

36 Responses to “Review – The Trouble With AUSTRALIA”

  1. mutinyco says:

    A red-ass baboon blowing red-ass baboons out its red ass…

  2. Cadavra says:

    Didn’t Kidman already flub the fish-out-of-water biz in COLD MOUNTAIN? Does she stink any less this go-round?

  3. Spacesheik says:

    I didn’t like Kidman’s earlier FAR AND AWAY so I prolly won’t enjoy this update called AUSTRALIA either.
    It looks like Western kitsh; and I don’t mean good Western kitsch like THE BIG COUNTRY and DUEL IN THE SUN.

  4. LYT says:

    Seems like I’m the only one who hated that little kid. He’s beautiful, but insufferable.
    And after someone becomes your boyfriend, wouldn’t you start calling them by their actual name rather than profession? It seems odd when Kidman and Jackman are living together and she still calls him “the drover.”

  5. jeffmcm says:

    “I think he is one of those directors who has incredibly good taste”
    This is where you lost me.

  6. waterbucket says:

    It’s time for Nicole to play another cold-hearted bitch role that she’s born to do. Australia looks bad from the trailer and the reviews aren’t helping.

  7. movieman says:

    LYT- I hated the kid, too.
    “Insufferable” doesn’t begin to describe it: and his accent was so damn thick I could only understand maybe 50% of his voiceover narration.
    It even took me awhile to figure out whether he was a boy or a girl.

  8. LexG says:

    I still want to see this, though. This kind of (I’m assuming) cornball, oversized, earnest, lush and over-the-top type of old-schoolness comes along so rarely, it kind of demands to be seen, especially on a big screen.
    Looking forward to the 20-paragraph rebuttal to Dave’s review from Kamikaze.

  9. RedheadedWonder says:

    I’m so torn about whether I want to see this film or not. I want it to succeed because I really respect Kidman and Jackman as actors–they take such wonderful risks in their choice of roles and I like seeing that sense of risk rewarded and encouraged.
    In a way, the general chatter around this film reminds me of the response to Peter Jackson’s King Kong a few years back. Sure it was a little bloated, but it was not a failure by any means. But because Peter Jackson had just turned out Lord of the Rings, King Kong was viewed as a major letdown.
    The same thing seems to be happening here. Sure Australia may not be Moulin Rouge, but there’s so much unambitious crap out there I think it’s worth at least applauding an effort to tell a story so exuberantly.

  10. LYT says:

    The comparison to Jackson’s Kong is an excellent one. Both take a ’30s archetype over the top and are so in love with it that they ignore the fact that brevity was one of the key virtues of those old films.

  11. Blackcloud says:

    “Sure it was a little bloated, but it was not a failure by any means.”
    Yes it was. It wasn’t entertaining. And there’s no bigger failure for a movie like that.

  12. Blackcloud says:

    “There is a scene, for instance, where a contraction becomes very, very dangerous. But the audience has no way of knowing this

  13. chris says:

    I think so. I think he’s talking about the water tower thingy.

  14. David Poland says:

    Yes, “contraption.” Apparently, the spell check got the best of me, twice.
    Sorry for the confusion… now corrected

  15. David Poland says:

    I disagree about King Kong… that movie was bloated, but it knew what it wanted to be, very clearly. Not so much here.

  16. jeffmcm says:

    It was bloated, but I was definitely entertained by it (King Kong, haven’t seen Australia yet).

  17. JckNapier2 says:

    King Kong got 84% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, many of them glorious raves. It ended up with (around) $555 million worldwide on a $207 million budget. The only reason anyone called that film a dissapointment is because the early reviews had pundits and uninformed gossip entertainment journalists somehow thinking it was going to challenge Titanic at the box office (oh… it’s a three hour ‘doomed romance’… it’s the same thing!!). I’m sure Fox would kill for King Kong numbers at this point. And if Australia is even half as good as King Kong, I may have to see it this week.

  18. counthaku says:

    A minor note- I believe Dody Dorn is female, it was unclear if you knew her gender from the reference “Oscar guys”.

  19. leahnz says:

    why the hell is ‘australia’ being compared to pj’s ‘king kong’? because both movies were made by antipodeans? thin. pj and luhrmann may live in geographical proximity but they are world’s apart in terms of style and technique.
    (and say what you will about ‘king kong’, maybe it’s a girl thing but i love that big ape and naomi together – one of the great tragic cinema friendships – and kong himself is nothing short of amazing, one of the first great cg characters of modern cinema, along with gollum, thanks to andy and weta digital; everyone and their dog knows ‘king kong’ needed a serious trim-trimmity-trim-trim with a very sharp scalpel, but to declare king kong ‘not entertaining’ and compare it to ‘australia’ – which is a freakish mess, i saw it last night – is unkind)

  20. As I wrote on the BYOB post, I actually think the film would have been improved by more time, not less. You referenced the Bryan Brown moment just as I did and the scene where they must cross the Never Never in search of water seems to have been completely excised because once they set off we cut straight to the cattle delivery and it was quite strange.
    I actually think the film “settles down” (as if it’s meant to?) much earlier than the 80-minute mark. it’s more likely only 40 minutes of lunacy.
    In regards to Walters, I liked him purely because he made what could have been a really strange and ridiculous character genuine and believable. Although I did wonder what international audiences would make of all the talk of “dreaming” and “rainbow serpents”. That sort of stuff is indeed embedding in my country’s culture, just as I’m sure there are native American customs/speak that while normal to American audiences would come across as undecipherable to anybody else.
    The film sure is gorgeous – Dave, those silhouettes against sunset don’t work to good when they’re wearing baggy clothes 😛 – although there is a lot of winky CGI. Nevertheless, I actually think Luhrmann pulled most of it together very well. I don’t have any issue with the final act (the WWII segment) and the entire cattle drive sequence is fantastic (well, except for that brief lapse of judgment I spoke about with the Never Never).

  21. LexG says:


  22. leahnz says:

    hey kam, i must confess i feel a bit bad disliking ‘australia’ like i do because i actually wanted to like it, even after i heard it was a bit iffy, at least baz has guts and i love r+j so i was willing to give him a shot…but you know we sort of hate you guys a little anyway, did ya have to give us just so darn much to make fun of?! ;D the time-honoured adages of ‘sometimes less is more’ and ‘a simple story well told’ always apply, even in ‘epics’. i’m not sure what baz was going for but, i didn’t get it. then again, the film i hate most in the world is ‘strictly ballroom’, so it’s not without precedent.
    i’m genuinely glad you liked it tho, because at the end of the day that’s all that counts isn’t it, everyone else be damned

  23. leahnz says:

    what i should have said is, ‘fuck em if they can’t take a joke’. don’t you hate it when you thing of the thing to say well after you’ve already said something else?

  24. leahnz says:

    THINK of the thing…
    don’t you hate it when you make an ass of yourself

  25. jeffmcm says:

    Maybe it was the low expectations, but I actually enjoyed Australia, once I got past the (admittedly pretty ridonculous) first half-hour or so. I don’t ever need to see it again, probably, but I was entertained by it for a decent 2 1/2 hours. It’s not a good film, really, and in trying to make up for all the discrimination that Aborigines have dealt with over the last 200+ years, it still makes them into simplistic wide-eyed innocent children of nature, but it certainly means well on that count.
    But it’s not the third act of this movie that’s weird, it’s the first. It’s obvious that Wenham is the bad guy from the get-go, because he gets more screentime and prominence (SPOILERS – he is the little kid’s deadbeat dad, after all, so he already has greater thematic prominence than Bryan Brown). And I wasn’t bothered by the ‘contraption’ scene that DP mentions at all – the emotional danger was clearly established, regardless of whether the mechanics were or not.
    That said, I’m not as forgiving of the ‘pastiche-ness’ of it all (which is really where the comparison with Peter Jackson comes from – both are filmmakers with strong skill in crafting visuals that come from old movies they watched as kids – they’re synthetic talents, not original visionaries) because it’s a lot harder to feel satisfied, even if you are a fan, of bits and pieces of things you’ve seen before.

  26. I tend to think that at least a fraction of the score that I gave the film is due to the number of noteworthy people Luhrmann managed to finagle into the picture. Apart from, obviously, Kidman and Jackman there was;
    David Wenham
    Bryan Brown
    Ben Mendelsohn
    Jack Thompson
    David Gulpilil
    David Ngoombujarra
    Essie Davis
    Ray Barrett
    Tony Barry
    Jacek Koman
    Max Cullen
    Kerry Walker
    Jamie Gulpilil
    Bill Hunter
    Barry Otto
    Bruce Spence
    John Jarrett
    Crusoe Kurddal
    Ursula Yovich
    And only one of those I didn’t recognise (Jamie Gulpilil) so I think that helps. And the movie just continues to confirm how much of a presence David Gulpilil is on screen. Throw him in something and there’s instant gravitas.
    But, again, obviously that’s something will be of more relevance to Australian viewers than anybody else, which is the tricky situation the movie finds itself in.
    In regards to the farcical nature of the opening scenes, I think that was used for two reasons. Firstly, as a way for Luhrmann to get that whole “larrakin” attitude out of the way before all the heavy lifting stuff later on. Can’t have Darwin being rained with WWII bombs while kangaroos hop around to Rolf Harris wobbleboard music. Secondly, I think it was a way of lightening the load. For a movie to fun 165minutes and been stone serious for all of it would’ve been a hard slog. It didn’t entirely work in regards to the movie, but I got what he was doing and appreciated that he got it out of the way early. If that makes any sense.

  27. Cadavra says:

    What? No Yahoo Serious? Hell with it, then.

  28. christian says:

    And no Paul Hogan? Hellooo?

  29. LexG says:

    So does Naomi Watts. So does Anna Paquin.
    They would’ve made twice as much with any of them.

  30. jeffmcm says:


  31. Blackcloud says:

    Isn’t Paquin a Kiwi?

  32. LexG says:

    Isn’t it the same thing?
    PAQUIN OWNS. She would TOTALLY get my humor and awesome personality. But more to the point, she and Jackman had PALPABLE CHEMISTRY and endless charisma together in the first two X-Men; The kind of sparks-flying, magnetic chemistry and interaction a big, lengthy romance like this needs. I am not saying any of this to diss Kidman, who can be and is WORLD-CLASS (To Die For, Moulin Rouge, EWS, Dead Calm, Days of Thunder) but let’s just say, isn’t always the WARMEST actress going.

  33. Blackcloud says:

    “Isn’t it the same thing?”
    When Leah busts your ass for that comment you’ll know the answer.

  34. leahnz says:

    the difference?
    pub aussie:
    pub kiwi:
    america, you be the judge
    (sorry, just couldn’t resist ;-D)

  35. LexG says:

    Hey how come this doesn’t have JACKO Jackson in it?
    THAT WOULD OWN if he showed up doing his 80S battery commercial shtick in the middle of it.
    JACKO FUCKING OWNED. (I guess Vinnie Jones made him irrelevant.)

  36. Blackcloud says:

    Saw it tonight. Couldn’t agree more.

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