Australia Baz Luhrmann

Australia Baz Luhrmann
I couldn’t stand the kid in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia. Does that make me a bad person? His name is Nullah and he’s a little Australian "half-breed” (part white, part Aboriginal) played by 12-year-old Brandon Walters. Nullah narrates the film in a sickly-sweet voice that raises excitedly at incongruous moments and employs one of those cartoonishly bastardized versions of the English language that Hollywood prestige pictures think Aboriginals speak; it involves saying plural words in the singular, present tenses (i.e., "When Mrs. Boss come to this land, she look but she not see!”).

I quickly grew tired of this monotonous, aggressively cheerful character. He’s a piece of patronizing and ham-fisted characterization in a film that positively wallows in patronization and ham-fistedness.

Nullah is the illegitimate son of Mr. Fletcher (David Wenham), an evil Australian cattle herder who wants to corner Australia’s cattle market. Lady Ashley (Nicole Kidman), the widow of one of his potential rivals, arrives in Australia and learns quickly of his evil ways. She becomes determined to continue her late husband’s work and recruits the help of dark he-man Drover (Hugh Jackman) to assist. The story’s scope expands to include World War II, as well as a wandering Aboriginal mystic, who uses his magic whenever Luhrmann wants to cheat his way out of a cliff-hanger.

Luhrmann is ambitious enough that the 165-minute Australia never really bores. The special effects are vivid and colourful and a scene involving a cattle stampede is downright exciting. Luhrmann, however, has trouble finding the right tone. The first hour plays like a tongue-in-cheek parody of the "epic” genre, while the remaining hours become increasingly earnest and heavy-handed, made especially unbearable by David Hirschfelder’s musical score, which attempts to come right up to your eyes and rip the tears out.

Luhrmann loses his faith in the audience’s ability to become emotionally involved in his story and hammers home every emotion with such ferocity that it’s downright unpleasant. Australia doesn’t just pull at the heartstrings — it practically rapes them. (Fox)