Well, it’s official. Australia is crap. The only raging debate amongst reviewers world wide is exactly why the movie that was supposed to save our film industry is quite this woeful — Nicole Kidman (and her immovable forehead) is a primary target. But apparently cliches can make a movie and a few starry-eyed Americans think Australia is so bad it’s good…:

Nicole Kidman drifts about like a lost porcelain doll. Kidman is exquisitely accomplished at being awful. Did anyone see Cold Mountain? The sweeping American epic (note: another epic) foundered on the rocks of her gormless mirror-gaze. She can’t act. Instead, she drifts around films like a lost porcelain doll, looking frozen, brittle and vapid, staring at the camera with her oh-golly-look-how-I’m-looking-interesting blue eyes. — Times Online

How can one do justice to Baz Luhrmann’s overripe epic Australia? It’s several types of primitive melodrama — cattle-drive Western, war picture, anti-racist message movie — whirred together, burnished with state-of-the-art CGI, and blessed with dialogue that defies parody. Jackman has musical-theater chops and knows how to sell material this ham-handed; Kidman isn’t quite as deft. I’ve always admired her gumption in working so hard to overcome a certain temperamental tightness — but that tightness has now spread to her skin. — New York Magazine

Throw another cliché on the barbie. It’s a mystery to me how Baz Luhrmann continues to be regarded as a director worth following. A long time has passed since I’ve regarded his lush, loud, defiantly unsubtle output with anything but dread. In Australia, his new romantic-epic-Western-protest-war drama, Luhrmann’s dedication to cliché has become so absolute, it starts to verge on a kind of genius. There’s not a single music cue that isn’t obvious (swelling strings to indicate heartbreak, wailing didgeridoo to signal aboriginal nobility). Nary a line of dialogue is spoken that hasn’t been boiled down, like condensed milk, from a huge vat of earlier Hollywood films. — Slate

Baz Luhrmann’s Australia an ‘unwieldy mess’; Nicole Kidman ‘painfully corny’. With Australia, Luhrmann obviously intends to stage a grand romance against the epic backdrop of World War II. But what we get instead is an unwieldy mess that needed another six months in the editing room. Far worse, however, is the racial double standard in a film that proudly pats itself on the back for its own decency. Luhrmann aims to teach us about Australia’s shameful missionary policies, which took mixed-race Aboriginal children from their families to be raised among whites. The way he does this is by killing off Nullah’s biological mother, so Kidman can nobly care for him. — New York Daily News

Australia is good-looking but stale and overlong. Australia really should have been made 60 years ago. It would have been timelier, with its tale of life in the remote north of that country during World War II. The juicy overacting, stereotypes and dramatic exaggerations would have been more in keeping with the style of the Golden Age of Hollywood. And I would not yet have been born, so I could have lived a full cinematic life without seeing it. Australia is an unbroken string of clichés. Director Luhrmann does the obvious at every turn, making each character an archetype and every action a crowd-pleasing, grandiosely predictable moment. — Charlotte Observer

Australia: Epic romance Down Under. Have you seen everything Australia has on offer a dozen times before? Sure you have. It’s a movie less created by director and co-writer Baz Luhrmann than assembled, Dr. Frankenstein-style, from the leftover body parts of earlier movies. Which leaves us asking this question: How come it is so damnably entertaining? —Time

Too much is sometimes just too much, no matter what the philosophical underpinnings. But if you are willing to take the plunge and view things through Luhrmann’s prism, Australia does deliver the classic dramatic and romantic satisfactions its ambitious advertising campaign promises. That ultimate success seems unlikely early on as Australia makes itself difficult to understand by throwing a ton of plot information at us with expressions and accents so authentically Aussie the specifics are at times hard to follow. — LA Times

Peter Fray

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