Movie Information

In Brief: Baz Luhrmann's follow-up to Moulin Rouge! (2001), Australia (2008), was a hugely expensive flop — big enough that Luhrmann and his friend Nicole Kidman decided maybe it would better if they didn't work together again. The truth is that it's big, a bit dumb, utterly fantasticated and completely romanticized. It’s also kind of wonderful. Whether or not Australia is a great film, it is one hell of a movie. I say that as a compliment. I also note that it’s old-fashioned — and that, too, is a compliment. The word “epic” gets tossed around these days with alarming frequency to describe every effects-driven, big-budget behemoth that lumbers into town. It also gets used as a barometer of quality, which is even more absurd. Cecil B. DeMille’s movies were largely epics. They were also largely bad (camp value notwithstanding). Australia truly is an epic (see the poster above) — and in a good way. In fact, it’s an epic in several good ways. It has the kind of sweep and wide-ranging geographical sense of an epic. The story and the characters are all larger than life. The scope of its ambition knows no bounds. It trades in the same kind of heightened romanticism as Moulin Rouge!, with all that implies. There’s an innocence about both — a lack of cynicism and irony — that’s refreshing in modern film. Luhrmann’s worldview has a charming simplicity to it that somehow transcends itself to reveal less simple themes, rendering them marvelously lucid by not intellectualizing them. And Luhrmann puts forth his ideas in a straightforward manner (even if his style isn’t).
Genre: Romantic Epic
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Brandon Walters, David Wenham, Bryan Brown, David Gulpilil
Rated: PG-13

The Hendersonville Film Society will show Australia Sunday, May 29, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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