If I had a read a simple synopsis of Australia I'd probably never have watched it. Boy meets girl, pick up an orphan child along the way set to the Australian outback at the onset of the WWII. My memory is saying Thorn Birds revisited and that's so far off the charts of movie making I have time for I'm grateful I caught a one liner that it was the best movie of 2008. I'd never heard of it before as I was in Beijing at the time I guess.
Some people have a real aversion to Nicole Kidman but she's never let me down in a movie yet and to my mind is easily one of the most accomplished female actors on the planet, if we forgive her playing drunk instead of stoned in Eyes wide shut. Some people find her cold but I guess that's part of the appeal and without question her partnering up with Hugh Jackson in this movie is about as memorable (and humorous) a sexual match on the big screen as is possible. I don't usually like the themes of love and romance on the big screen outside of foreign language screenplays, so if I enjoyed it I can't imagine anyone else finding it overbearing.
The boy character of Nullah (Creamy) is exceptionally well played. Adding children to the mix is always high risk but there isn't a scene he detracts from. It's not just that he acts well, he nails/is the character of a half aboriginal half white boy under constant persecution from the authorities who it has to be highlighted only stopped the practice of separating children from their mothers in 1973 and belatedly received a useless apology in 2008. That apology is insufficient given the growing testimony of systematic child abuse that the Church exploits and rears their victims.
The aboriginal themes of magic and harmony with the land are well integrated in the movie and if that fails to overcome stereotypical expectations, I think the weaving of the second world war narrative is informative and taught me a few things that I hadn't really thought of before with respect to Australia, Japan and the British Empire during the war. I didn't know about the bombing of Darwin for example.
Directed by Baz Luhrman I think Australia is beautifully produced with very few over the top sentimental indulgences, or so few they don't matter.