Directed by Baz Luhrmann
A British aristocrat inherits her husband’s cattle ranch in Australia.
When a film has a canvas as expansive as Australia’s, “it’s no wonder they named it after a continent,” said Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. “A lover of artifice and excess,” director Baz Luhrmann aspired to create a poignant homage to his homeland. His brave but overblown film runs nearly three hours. It mashes together too many genres (romance, historical epic, Western, war film) and pays homage to too many old movies (Giant, The African Queen, Gone With the Wind). Australia is one heck of a “camera-swooping, music-swelling, mood-altering widescreen package,” said Manohla Dargis in The New York Times. But it’s hardly the “greatest story ever told.” The film begins in 1939 when a British aristocrat (Nicole Kidman) arrives at her Australian husband’s birthplace, only to find him dead. She takes over his cattle ranch by joining forces with a loner stockman (Hugh Jackman) and a half-Aboriginal boy (Brandon Walters). Luhrmann “possesses ambition as huge as the film’s open country,” said Keith Phipps in The Onion. Yet his directional vision runs amok. His short-attention-span style ill fits the epic sweep of history, and he comes off as basically unfit to “work on this grand a scale.”