Big Country 

Everything Australia Does, it Does Big

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There's a scene in Baz Luhrmann's Australia that pretty much sums up the hilarious giddiness of this big-budget epic. In it, beefy Hugh Jackman heroically appears in a cloud of dust, driving a herd of wild horses, with his slow motion, deep-throated "Yaa!"s and Marlboro Man-style head tosses lifted straight from the cover of a pulpy paperback novel.

Australia shares a few qualities with the supermarket literary genre, in which ordinary hurdles are overcome with outlandish grandiosity. Take, for example, the moment when Jackman's character, Drover, comes to terms with fatherhood and responsibility in his relationship with Lady Sarah (Nicole Kidman): Instead of processing his feelings through tedious relationship talks, he single handedly takes on the Japanese army, and comes swimming home with 50 orphans strapped to his back.

Clearly, subtlety isn't a big priority in Australia, which takes on a huge amount of melodramatic and historical subject matter. An incomplete synopsis: Lady Sarah is an English blueblood who comes to Australia to collect her philandering husband; once there, she meets an escort he's hired for her, Drover. The first third of the film is a bewildering comedy in which Kidman does her best impression of Mary Poppins while Jackman rolls his eyes a lot and goes "Crikey!", but the drama heats up when the villainous Fletcher (a distractingly hot David Wenham) appears: cattle are driven, beef industry monopolies are toppled, Poppins and Jackman totally do it, bombs are dropped, crocodiles attack, saloons are desegregated, children are kidnapped, medicine men work their magic, and it's all narrated by a precocious little kid named Nullah (Brandon Walters).

For an epic aiming at Gone with the Wind proportions, there's way too little space here to address every deep, dated flaw and moment of cinematic abandon that Australia earnestly embodies. At different times, Luhrmann's epic unintentionally cracked me up, authentically caught me up in suspense, and probably made me ovulate—not a bad time, all in all.

Australia
Rated PG-13 · 165 min. · 2008
Official Site: www.australiamovie.com
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Writer: Stuart Beattie, Baz Luhrmann, Ronald Harwood and Richard Flanagan
Producer: Baz Luhrmann
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, David Wenham, Jack Thompson and Bryan Brown

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