f I was to make a list of overrated filmmakers, I think Baz Luhrmann - the man behind “Moulin Rouge” and “Romeo and Juliet” - would be high on that list.
Sure his films have a visual flair, but they are so off the way, they veer wildly out of control.
Now Luhrmann presents “Australia,” a sweeping epic that is supposed to be a tribute to his homeland. Instead, the film proves to be nothing more than a bloated mess that proves to be Luhrmann’s worst film to date.
Told through the point of view of an aboriginal boy named Nullah (Brandon Walters), the film tells the story of Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) - an English aristocrat who inherits a sprawling ranch in a remote part of Australia in the late 1930s.
When an Australian businessman (Bryan Brown) attempts a hostile takeover, Ashley joins forces with a rough and tumble cattle rancher named Drover (Hugh Jackman) to get her cattle across the plains so she can save her ranch from financial ruin.
If “Australia” stopped there it still wouldn’t be a good movie, but it would at least be mediocre.
Unfortunately, the film goes into an extra hour that centers around the Japanese bombing of Darwin during World War II - a completely exhausting exercise that had me seriously contemplating an exit strategy.
If the film was just a three-hour bore, it would be one thing. But Luhrmann bombs the audience with his constant high-energy flair, which seems quite pretentious.
Look, I realize this subject is a labor of love for Luhrmann, but the real pain comes from watching the final product - not making it.
The acting is nearly as unbearable. Kidman is seriously miscast in a role that requires someone with a little less star power, especially in the character’s early stages.
Jackman seems to be having the most fun, but his performance is one-note and gets old quickly.
About the only person I did like was Brown, but his screen time is minimal.
Before its release, there was potential Oscar buzz for “Australia.” While “Moulin Rouge” proved you don’t have to be good to get nominated, I think I can safely predict the buzz from “Australia” will be nonexistent come award season.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “Man on Wire” (A), director James Marsh’s incredible documentary that deserves all the buzz it has received.
“Man on Wire” tells the story of French tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s illegal high-wire routine performed between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974 - an incident considered by many to be “the artistic crime of the century.”
Marsh intertwines file footage with re-enactments and interviews from all the people involved with the incident to create a movie that feels more like a heist film than it does a straightforward documentary.
Petit is a fascinating interview (I still can’t decide if the guy was daring, brilliant or just flat-out insane), and the other people involved in the caper bring interesting perspectives that really provide insight.
What makes “Man on Wire” even more intriguing is watching Petit’s walk unfold, knowing that 27 years later the towers would collapse in a deadly terrorist attack. Marsh wisely chooses not to mention 9/11 - instead delivering a tribute that provides a lasting memory of the towers that doesn’t end in tragedy.
“Man on Wire” is rated PG-13 for some sexuality, nudity and drug references and will be available on DVD on Tuesday.
— Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton is waiting for the other shoe to drop. In the meantime, he’ll respond to your questions and comments if you e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.