Director: Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, Romeo + Juliet)
Writer: Baz Luhrmann, Stuart Beattie, Ronald Harwood and Richard Flanagan
Producers: Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Knapman, G. Mac Brown
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, David Wenham, Jack Thompson, Bryan Brown
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 165 min
As the credits rolled for Baz Luhrmann’s Australia, I struggled to remember whether I’d actually read an entire synopsis for the film. With a running time of nearly three hours and the glorious trailers and stills, I imagined it to be some sort of war epic with a love story in the backdrop. What I didn’t expect was a full blown romance with everything else in the background.
In the tradition of the classic epics, think Gone With the Wind made in the 21st century, this is a story of love conquering all. It begins with Lady Sarah Ashley deciding to travel to Australia to sell the family’s defunct cattle ranch. Once there, she enlists the help of Drover, a wild Australian considered by many to be nothing more than a “black”, and in the process of driving 1,500 head of cattle from Faraway Downs to Darwin, she tames the “wild” man and the two fall in love. Sounds a bit cheesy? That’s because it is.
But the film isn’t all passionate looks across desert landscapes, cattle and dancing in the rain. Though the war plays a small part in the story, the film is more of a history lesson than anything else. Who ever would have though that my Anthropology classes on Australian Aborigines would come in handy? In actuality, they didn’t since Luhrmann and writers Stuart Beattie, Ronald Harwood and Richard Flanagan do a good job of outlining the basics but I was surprised to find the role that these traditions play in the story. The incorporation of cultural aspects such as Dreaming, the oral tradition and even the walkabout come as a pleasant, if unexpected, surprise.