Baz Luhrmann, Dreaming Big In 'Australia'

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Brandon Walters as Nullah i

Nullah (Brandon Walters), an orphaned half-indigenous boy, narrates Baz Luhrmann's Australia, an epic as expansive and colorful as the Outback. James Fisher/20th Century Fox hide caption

itoggle caption James Fisher/20th Century Fox
Brandon Walters as Nullah

Nullah (Brandon Walters), an orphaned half-indigenous boy, narrates Baz Luhrmann's Australia, an epic as expansive and colorful as the Outback.

James Fisher/20th Century Fox

Australia

  • Director: Baz Luhrmann
  • Genre: Drama, Romance
  • Running Time: 165 minutes

Rated PG-13: Violence, some sensuality, and brief strong language.

Nicole Kidman as Lady Sarah Ashley and Hugh Jackman as The Drover i

Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) and stock-man 'Drover' (Hugh Jackman). James Fisher/20th Century Fox hide caption

itoggle caption James Fisher/20th Century Fox
Nicole Kidman as Lady Sarah Ashley and Hugh Jackman as The Drover

Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) and stock-man 'Drover' (Hugh Jackman).

James Fisher/20th Century Fox

With a story this big, it's no wonder they named it after a continent.

Australia is filmmaking in the old-fashioned epic style — though only up to a point. It's the circa-1939 story of what happens when Nicole Kidman's British aristocrat takes over an Australian cattle ranch, locking horns in the process with Hugh Jackman — who plays a character so iconic he's known only as The Drover.

But Australia isn't just any blockbuster; it's a blockbuster filtered through the sensibility of director Baz Luhrmann, whose last film was the dizzying Moulin Rouge.

Luhrmann is a lover of artifice and excess; he's got no use for old-school realism, and he brings an unapologetically over-the-top aesthetic to the table. Here, he also wanted to make a deeply Australian film, to bend the norms of Hollywood filmmaking to the task of telling the story of his own country his own way.

And so Australia pays attention to aboriginal rituals and culture, and to the plight of the Stolen Generations — the mixed-race and Aboriginal children who were removed from their families and raised in mission schools.

One such child, named Nullah, is the film's narrator. Nullah's life is hard, but he takes Judy Garland's "Over The Rainbow" as a kind of personal anthem.

It becomes Australia's anthem as well — and its tribute to a place "where dreams that you dare to dream really do come true" couldn't be a better fit for this big, dreaming film.

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