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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Australia

I love Nicole Kidman, kiddies. There, I’ve said it. I know a lot of people think she is an “ice princess” and “emotionally distant”, but what can you expect considering she was married to Tom Cruise for ten years? You just know that when they “made love” Nicole had to lie flat on her back and hold a 3’ x 3’ mirror in front of her upper body so Tom could only see himself during the actual act. And mirrors that size are heavy for a frail gal like Nicole. Then, after a decade of humiliation at the hands of Scientoloonie Tom it was obvious that Nicki’s self-esteem had hit more skids than Pete Wentz’s underpants because who do you think she ends up married to next but country crooner Keith Urban. Now, I’m sure Mr. Urban is a dear man, but how could Nicole date someone and get to the point of marriage without knowing that he was chasing the white line everywhere he went? It was what, two weeks, after they said their “I dos” that Keith was off to Rehab for his cocaine addiction. Nicole, Nicole, Nicole. I hope Keith sings to you every night, especially since the two of you now have a baby girl, which is a good reason to keep working at this relationship even if, after making Australia, you must sometimes feel you could have traded up after Tommy Girl and you missed the chance once you spent so much time around Hugh Jackman.

She could have had that chance too, if I was dead, because that is the only way Nicole or any other woman will ever get anywhere near my future ex-husband Hugh before me. I’ve tolerated a lot in my life, but as anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows, there is nothing that comes between me and my Hugh Jackman. I have long considered him at the top of my own Bucket List, and I have been more than tolerant of his long-term marriage to that old cow Deborra-Lee Furness, whose only redeemable feature is being almost nine years older than Hugh, and so I have to credit her with training him to enjoy the pleasures of a mature woman like myself so when he tires of her (and he will, he will) I will be ready to step up and comfort him in whatever way he needs, and a man has needs, many, many needs.

I’m sure Nicole thought about that quite a lot while she and Hugh were filming Australia for weeks on end out on the dusty, dry plains of the Outback near Kununurra, in Western Australia. It’s not like there’s much else to do on such a vast desert, but then that is an important bit of Australia’s story.

Australia is really a grand love story as much about the love of the country itself, focusing on the love between two ~ (well really) three ~ people. Director Baz Lurhmann (Moulin Rouge!), originally from New South Wales (the Sydney area), has produced a grand epic in the tradition of Gone With the Wind, only moving the story from America’s Civil War South to Australia’s Northern Territory at the dawn of World War II. Kidman (The Golden Compass) plays Lady Sarah Ashley, an oh-so-proper English Lady who leaves her home in ‘Jolly Old’ to find out just what her husband has been doing during his way-too-long absence away at their cattle ranch in Australia. While it is anything but customary for a woman to travel unchaperoned during this era, Sarah is hardly customary. Once she arrives in the northern port city of Darwin, she enlists the assistance of a local roundabout called Drover (Hugh Jackman; Deception), to take her to the ranch, called Far away Downs.

It takes several days to get to the main house on the land, during which time Sarah and her prissy, uptight ways are guaranteed to drive Drover to the point of insanity, which can mean only one thing ~ this is bound to blossom into true love in no time. Conveniently, by the time they arrive, Lord Ashley (Anton Monsted, the movie’s executive music supervisor in a cameo role) has been murdered by the evil Neil Fletcher (David Wenham; The Children of Huang Shi), a paid flack of
Australia’s reining cattle baron, King Carney (Bryan Brown; Dean Spanley).

So begins the sweeping tale of cattle wars and culture, with Lady Ashley and Drover finding
themselves at odds with Carney and his men, who are determined to maintain a monopoly on the market, while the couple also confront a second, uglier situation as they try to stop the local whites who are determined to seek out mixed race children for a round-up like the cattle themselves and then herd them off to an island home away from their parents and ‘proper’ civilization. What Carney and Fletcher didn’t count on but find they can exploit is the love both of these newcomers have developed for one boy in particular, the ten-year-old son of one of the housekeepers at Far Away Downs. Nullah (the remarkable Brandon Walters in a debut performance you will remember for years to come) is the grandson of King George (David Gulpilil; Crocodile Dreaming), an old Aboriginal tribesman who Fletcher has blamed for Lord Ashley’s killing. Even so, Sarah and Drover know Fletcher is lying if only because Nullah says so, and his word is enough.

What transpires in the next couple of hours is so exciting and heart-wrenching I dare even the hardest of hearts not to tear up at least once or twice over some of the turns of events that happen to our characters. A key here is the merging of real life history with reel life drama and Lurhmann and co-writers Stuart Beattie (30 Days of Night), Ronald Harwood (Love in the Time of Cholera), and Richard Flanagan (The Sound of One Hand Clapping) have infused their story with the Japanese bombing of Darwin along with the racial component and juxtaposition both with the most popular movie of this period, The Wizard of Oz. How apt that as the horrors of war rain down upon them that Australia’s elite would be attending a screening of a film about a place also called Oz, in a land somewhere over the rainbow where bluebirds fly and nothing bad ever seems to happen.

Australia, or “Oz” as the natives call it, includes a beautiful score by David Hirschfelder (Salute), another Aussie, this time from, Ballarat, Victoria. It is a breath of fresh air from the usual trumpet blasts and predictable blockbuster bluster we have come to expect from the usual suspects, John Williams and Danny Elfman. Instead, Hirschfelder’s score melds lyrical and light melodies with wistful, just recognizable rifts from “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” the signature song from that other Oz and the song that young Nullah embraces as a personal anthem of his own.

Jackman, recently named People magazine’s “Sexiest Man of 2009” proves he deserves the title hands-down as Drover. He is a rarity in the movie business today, willing to be vulnerable on
screen (Is that a tear?) and tough as nails (Don’t hurt me!) in the blink of an eye. He looks like he belongs on a horse and is as believable running 1500 head of cattle on the plain as he is showing up in tux to lead Lady Ashley in the Foxtrot in front of Darwin’s highest society. It’s not a comfortable shift a lot of action heroes can handle but certainly one you would expect from a man who has also found huge fame shaking his butt in leopard-spotted Spandex as gay songwriter Peter Allen on Broadway for more than a year in the musical “The Boy From Oz” or who has sported some pretty scary hair and a rubber suit in three movies (so far) as the X-Men’s favorite macho man, Wolverine.

I don’t think it’s just that my true love Hugh is the star of this romantic epic that colors my judgment about
Australia. I’ve visited the country myself and can attest to the unmatched charm of its people and the glorious beauty of its geography. The opportunity for Baz Lurhmann and company to bring this story to world is the best gift you can get at the holidays, and it would be a shame not to snatch it up. Crikey, it’s good!

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