“Australia” is a decent view on the land down under

Baz Lurhman is back with his sweeping epic “Australia,” which is essentially a love story to his native country of the same name. The shots of the undeniably gorgeous country are staggering at first; shot more like an episode of “Planet Earth” as the camera pans over shots of the outback. The world of “Australia” is seen through the eyes of Nullah; a young aboriginal boy who has been cast aside by many of Australia’s society due to his mixed race. He is the narrator and the soul of the film, depicting violence, corruption and wealth as only a child can see it. Nullah’s narration is the most refreshing aspect of the film. It is honest and raw and it incontrovertibly connects the themes of the film, which are family, connection and love. Stuffy, uptight and rigid, Kidman depicts a woman, Lady Ashley, on a clear power trip-one who may have power among her equals in the upper class of England but soon learns among the people of the outback she has to pull her own weight like the rest of them. Rugged and strong, it is clear why Hugh Jackman was chosen for this role. He plays Drover, a cattle hand whose job it is to round all the cattle to be shipped off as profit for the impending war. He is a man of the land and an independent figure. And, gasp, as fate would have it, Drover is the one hired to help Lady Ashley move her specific cattle and yes a romance ensues. If you were to enter the theater to simply see a love story similar to that of “Romeo + Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge!” then congratulations, there is it. There is however, an underlying theme of magic and faith that is often lost among films today. Nullah is a child who believes in magic, he calls magic to him and it influences the acts that follow. When he and the other children like him are carried off to an island to be “taken care of by God,” he cries out to Kidman’s character: “I will sing me to you, Mrs. Boss!” – melting every heart in the theater more so than any piercing stare from Jackman. Lurhman doesn’t need to prove himself as a director that much is clear. It is a mistake to continually cast Kidman. She lacks the stamina to convince the audience of both her upper crust grace and her ability to be one of the boys. Jackman delivers smoldering look after smoldering look, fresh off the press of being named People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.” Lurhman knew he would get women in the seats solely based on this fact. There is an underlying sense of history and magic that make this film work-Nullah is the film and he embodies that which is often forgotten in films today; actual spirit. When the dust has settled from the Japanese bombing of the major port in Australia, Nullah leaves the comforts of his new family to go on “walk about,” an aboriginal rite of passage. At 165 minutes it seems like that time would have been better spent with Nullah following his character, learning about his magic and following his journey. Directing: 5 out of 5 starsActing: 3 out of 5 starsScreenwriting: 3 out of 5 stars