Monday, December 1, 2008

Movie Review Monday -- AUSTRALIA

I was lucky enough to see Baz Luhrmann's newest movie, AUSTRALIA, at an advance screening a little over a week ago. Lucky, because Luhrmann himself, along with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman were there doing a Q&A afterwards. For me, nothing caps off a movie-going experience better than listening to the filmmaker and actors talk about making the film I've just watched, and this was no exception. Hugh Jackman, particularly, was absolutely charming and funny--and, dare I say it? Dazzling!

Bottom line: I really enjoyed AUSTRALIA. It was a grand, sweeping epic with an old-fashioned feel, and beyond that, it was simply beautiful to watch (the scenery, the sweeping vistas, the actors!). During the Q&A, Luhrmann talked about developing the idea, and he talked a lot about GONE WITH THE WIND, which, of course, is my all-time favorite movie. I definitely got the feeling that he was kind of trying to make a movie in the GWTW tradition--his own Australian version.

For me, it worked. Sure, it was fairly melodramatic at times. And yes, it was *long*, clocking in at 2 hrs. 45 minutes (but hey, for us LORD OF THE RINGS fans, that's nothing!). There was a point in the movie where it felt like it could have been 'the end'--a nice, happy, tidy ending....but then it keeps going, and I found the next segment as compelling as the first. And yes, there's a few gratuitous "let's show Hugh Jackman's buff, bare chest one more time!" scenes (trust me, I'm am NOT complaining!). But all in all, I was entertained. I laughed, I cried--what more could you ask for? I thought the romance in AUSTRALIA was particularly compelling, and while Jackman's Drover is no Rhett Butler, he definitely has his own rugged charm, and Kidman's Sarah is a totally likable heroine--they made a good match, and the chemistry between the two simply sizzled.

I like epics. GONE WITH THE WIND, DR. ZHIVAGO, GIANT, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, maybe I can even dump THE THORN BIRDS miniseries into that pot. Yes, they are all a bit melodramatic, but as long as the romance is good, the vistas sweeping, and the drama compelling, I'm there.

How about you? Any grand, sweeping epics that you count among your favorites? And if you've seen AUSTRALIA, I'd love to hear your take on it!


Lana said...

I went to see Australia last night and loved it. And how I envy your encounter with the actors!

I thought it was really well done, and it didn't really *feel* long to me. I was impressed that Luhrmann could pull off such a different style. I liked the story, the cinematography, the little boy. Just wow!

Kristina Cook said...

I'm with you, Lana! Wow is right. The little boy was amazing, and apparently he was a real aboriginal child--not an actor. Luhrmann said he really had to 'court' the boy's family and get to know them well before they would trust him enough to let the child do the movie. Amazing what a performance he gave, with no experience!

Charlotte Featherstone said...

I'm afraid that the previews of this movie have never really pulled me in. Although, I will admit that the last picture of them on the bed...that does pull me in.
I'm not sure what it is about the movie, the setting, the actors, the storyline that has me less than enthusiastic. It's not the melodrama, because I LOVE melodrama.
I'm afraid that this will likely be a rental for me. Maybe I'll rent it at the same time as Gone With the Wind, which I've never seen. Nor have I read the, I'm dodging rotten tomatoes from Kristina who cannot believe I've been living under a rock for 38yrs! lol!

Kristina Cook said...

Oh, yeah...the scene on the bed was *very* hot!

Amanda McIntyre said...

I cannot wait to see this movie, only becasue there are so few historical movies done-period. and I think that Jackman and Kidman are brilliant actors with just about anything they do.

I dont know if its the idea of it being dubbed "epic" or the fact that its historical. If its a "meaty" story with depth of characters, a plot that contains full-bodied obstacles, all squished into historical events, then to me that's temptation for my movie palate!

Non screen "epics" for me include the mini series "North and South" which I adore and the series "Roots."

I can remember being totally enfatuated with Doctor Zhivago, can't tell you haw many times I've read my word copy of that book.

Gone with the Wind, stands nearly alone in cinematic achievement, IMO.
Cecil B Demille's classic movies are the only ones that come close to that definition of "epic"

However, in terms of lush grandeur,setting, and fantastic story-I consider "Braveheart" on an "epic" scale, personally, as I would the Lord of the Rings trilogy, "A Lion in Winter" and "The Patriot"