He Said/She Said #01: Australia
He Said/She Said is a bi-weekly column where a male and female reviewer from the site team up to debate the merits of a particular film.
Baz Luhrman is an amazing director. He has a beautiful way of telling stories and always manages to add a unique twist to whatever he does. So it was with much excitement that I sat down to watch AUSTRALIA. I figured this was going to be his masterpiece; a film about his homeland, starring two of its biggest stars and presumably operating with his most generous budget. But sadly, it was not meant to be.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was a bad film, but it comes crashing down to earth with a “thud” that smacks of disappointment and missed opportunities. He never takes the time to set up our two main characters as people we care about and instead, spends his time trying to make their dialogue cutesy and fluffy. I can accept that if it’s done appropriately (like MOULIN ROUGE) or if it fits the story, but here, it just felt out of place. Also, he’s taking us on a journey with these two characters and at no point do we care if they get together or even if they survive their journey.
Even the greatest of directors have to be reigned in from time to time. In this case, Luhrman has become a product of his own success. People like his artsy way of making mainstream films and I got the feeling he forced the inspiration rather than letting it come to him. In the end, I expected more from everyone involved. Yes, it was a beautiful film and Luhrman created art with the camera, but without a good story, its just a bunch of fancy imagery.
I too think Luhrman is an amazing director and I always find his films to be a beautiful treat for the eyes. I found Australia to be an interesting and well told story, maybe a bit long at times but most of the film seemed vital to the story being told. The major flaw would be the portrayal of the Aborigines, I’m going to assume Mr. Luhrman is just going for historical accuracy but I found the way the child spoke to be a bit distracting if not a tad offensive.
I don’t find this to be the best of Luhrman’s film by any means and I feel the saving grace was Hugh Jackman—or maybe the saving grace was Jackman’s pseudo-shower scene. Either way I enjoyed the characters in the film and cared about them enough to where I was rooting for a happy ending. I felt overall it was a nice history lesson with beautiful people to watch which always makes the subject more tolerable.
Also, the cinematography and sets were outstanding. The locations used were beautiful and rich in colors, the scenery alone was enough to make me watch this again. I always knew Australia was a beautiful country but this film made me want to pick up and move there. The lighting and the landscapes were so well shot it made the film seem like it was set in an enchanted and untouched land which gives credit to director and crew since this is no easy feat to accomplish.
Sadly Australia didn’t get the attention it may have deserved. We’ll just have to chalk this film up to Luhrman what Empire of the Sun was to Spielberg. Every great director should be able to reach a point where he can make whatever film he wants about any subject and this is Luhrman’s.