Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Winner, Hands Down

I've seen all three. I've liked all three. But the winner, hands down, is Australia.

I enjoyed every single second of this movie. It's long, and it's full of cliches and archetype characters, including the mustache-twirling villain straight out of central casting. There really aren't any surprising plot twists, and you can pretty much predict what's going to happen from one moment to the next. I cried on cue, smiled on cue, sighed on cue.

But I don't care. This movie is pure crack for anyone who loves sweeping, epic love stories. It's a romance novel brought to the big screen.

To anyone not in the know, the story is pretty straight forward. Lady Sarah Ashley travels from England to Australia, where her husband runs a cattle station named Faraway Downs. When she gets there, she finds her husband has been murdered and the cattle station is in financial ruin. Her first plan is to sell the station and get right back home. But the station's corrupt and morally reprehensible manager pushes Lady Sarah's buttons, and she determines that she will see through the last cattle drive that could push the station back into the black.

She's helped by a cowboy known as The Drover. Sidebar to say, never in the entire 165 minutes of running time do we discover that this man's name is anything but The Drover. Together, Sarah and the Drover and a handful of ragtag station hands drive the cattle to Darwin. We meet a young half-white, half-Aboriginal boy named Nullah. Not only does Lady Sarah fall in love with the Drover, she also falls in love with Nullah. As did I. Because, dang, Hugh Jackman? And the boy, played by Brandon Walters, is as cute as all-get-out.

But things aren't so easy down under. The Drover is a wandering spirit who chafes at the idea of domestic permanence. After all, he's called The Drover, not Mow the Lawn Guy. And the Australian government has some sort of sadistic practice of taking half-caste children (half white/half black) away from their parents and sending them to mission orphanages where "the black is bred out of them". So Nullah is in constant danger of being snatched by the authorities.

Add to all of this the Japanese's impending attacks that everyone expects after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and getting to the HEA is not always a sure thing.

Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman are perfectly cast as The Drover and Lady Sarah Ashley. They had amazing chemistry together. In fact, my biggest complaint is that we didn't get to see near enough of them being in love. The movie is actually pretty chaste by today's standards. But I challenge any red-blooded hetero woman to deny that she seriously considered calling Qantas over the prospect that Australia is populated by men like Hugh Jackson/the Drover.

If you are in the mood to be told a wonderful story, I can't recommend this movie highly enough. The critics are claiming that it is far from original, but who the hell cares?

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