Knee-jerk review: "Australia"

1. This is a whole lot of movie. Chock full of subplots and themes and homages and characters. Probably a few too many, truth be told. It's a little fuzzy around the edges.
2. The idea is clearly to offer the romantic sweep and thrilling historical action of Gone with the Wind. Give director Baz Luhrmann credit for ambition.
3. Nicole Kidman in the real world is becoming more plastic-looking with every passing day. And that smug little smirk she always wears doesn't do her any favors. But in the movie here she resembles an actual human being. And a likable one at that.
4. The cattle drive sequence is probably the highlight. Despite what the TV spots may suggest, this is in many ways an old-school Western.
5. Luhrmann, as usual, is very interested in filling his work with pop culture allusions. The Wizard of Oz plays a big role in the action here. It's not just discussed, but characters are shown watching it, and the tune "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" features prominently. More interesting, though, is the way Luhrmann's cinematography often calls to mind the big Technicolor epics of the 1930s.
6. Yeah, the kid who plays little Nullah is pretty good.
7. Hugh Jackman's solid as always. Why isn't he a bigger star? He only draws crowds when he's playing Wolverine, which is odd.
8. The opening few minutes is pretty weird tonally and formally, but the movie settles down soon enough.
9. A lot of it is familiar, but still fun. The freshest element is the class/race subplot involving the cruel treatment of Australian aborigines and the half-caste offspring of whites and Aborigines.

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