In Which We Go Down Under

A Stern But Warm Moral Lip

by Lauren Bans

Australia

dir. Baz Luhrmann

The problem with Homeland Romances like Australia is that the land is inevitably positioned as a competing love interest (female), and the dude (Hugh Jackman) has to choose between the land as his pussy (the rough, danger-filled Outback: i.e. very kinky) or the female lead as his pussy (Nicole Kidman: prim, Botoxed). The variation of this genre is the Diaspora/Immigrant romance in which the male lead, having no home, basically makes his lover’s vagina home sweet homeland.

I like the latter more because 1.) It’s way flattering, 2.) I hate fem on femland fighting, and 3.) often I envision my vagina leading the United Nations with a stern but warm moral lip. But in truth it’s no better. When someone stakes colonialist rights on your vagina in real life it’s gross. You have to discuss immigration reform, taxes, and in what public spaces it’s okay for them to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

In Australia, Hugh Jackman plays The Drover, a nickname referring to his job droving cattle, but more a reminder of his bedroom technique. Drover is the James Dean of the Outback, the British outcast who feels more at home with the Aboriginals, while Nicole Kidman’s character, at least initially, is the embodiment of the civilized tea-sipping society he eschews.

In order for their romance to work, Kidman has to gradually change her personality and life to compete with the rugged landscape that Drover loves so. She becomes a drover herself, fully takes on her deceased husband’s business, starts wearing pants and dirt smears instead of pencil skirts and eyeshadow, and adopts a ridiculously cute and cogent Aboriginal boy who endlessly repeats the line, “Miss, we got to get those cheeky fat bulls into the big steel ship.”

If you were not Baz Luhrmann, and actually had to pitch this movie before you made it, you would tell the agent: It’s Grease, but with cow-herding.

In this rendition, Sandra Dee is pretty much the loser. The landscape is beautiful, but Nicole Kidman looks so Botoxed her lack of forehead movement should have really been explained with a plot point: like she got hit in the face with a tranquilizer arrow while out hunting buffalo.

Drover endures a romance with Kidman for a while, but eventually the call of the land is too strong. He leaves her to go out and drove again. He only realizes his “mistake” at the end of the movie when WWII Japanese bombs begin to drop, blowing up the Technicolor landscape. He goes back to find Kidman and the boy. But, like, duh, it’s easy to say “Baby I miss you so much, I was wrong, I need you back,” when your other mistress’s face just got blown to bits. Kidman only wins by default.

I sincerely wanted to like the racial themes of the movie, but the Aboriginies were such caricatures, there wasn’t anything substantial to hold. The boy had some bizarre magic powers, a cute face, and he loved The Wizard of Oz. His grandfather was a witch doctor who constantly popped up in fields doing Tree Pose and little else. Mayhaps he’ll lead an express yoga session on the Special Features DVD section so a yuppie like me can more personally relate to his plight.

Australia should have been a full-on musical. It was too cheesy to be taken seriously, and not campy enough to be fun like Moulin Rouge! The swan song of the film was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which Kidman sings to the boy when his mother is killed, picking it after glancing at The Wizard of Oz ad in the local paper.

When he asks imploringly about Oz, Kidman explains: “He’s a magic man of sorts. He makes wonderful places.” Later the song serves as an almost magical beacon that allows them to communicate over inaudible distances. Oz = um, BAZ? The barfy self-aggrandizing was the last straw for this cheeky fat cow.

Lauren Bans is a contributor to This Recording. She writes at The Perfect Ratio.

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portrait of the author as a young hooplehead

“Money Folder (Four Tet Remix)” – Madvillain (mp3)

“Skttrbrain (Four Tet Remix)” – Radiohead (mp3)

“Breathe Me (Four Tet Remix)” – Sia (mp3)

“One Year (Four Tet Remix)” – His Name Is Alive (mp3)

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Molly on The Emperor’s Children.

Will on poetrie and painters.

Dick Cheney’s favorite book

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7 thoughts on “In Which We Go Down Under

  1. We can discuss visiting a paint-on tanning booth after you send me a stuffed life-size Miley Cyrus doll wearing a Zazzled t-shirt with the words of your NYT’s piece stretched over her adolescent bosom.

  2. Accurate dissconstruction. What’s with Nic’s groin-high mouth-hole (and hand-steadied skull) in the first shot? The horse deflects its gaze demurely. Okay, and that is irrelevant but: Nic looking stage right and wearing that hat 4 pics from bottom looks like Theresa Duncan: Art imitating Death? Photoshop in some braids…

  3. Ah, I AM enjoying all the bad reviews of this flick. Keep them coming!

    I refuse to see another Kidman movie, but I believe there’s a shocking Asian stereotype in it as well (in addition to the ‘indegenous folks as magical pixies’ idea.

    It is interesting to note that Tourism Australia put about $50mil into the making of this film, an astonishing amount when you consider what a hole the rest of the Oz industry is in.

  4. I’ve not yet seen this movie, and this review, made me laugh pretty hard. I, as an Australian am unfortunately, in no rush to see this flick. Apparently the film was made partly to muster up box office cash flow for our dwindling film industry, which is good in one sense and an absolute shame in another, as our films here generally, are gritty, hardhitting with fine talent casting. I’ve said this many times in my life, and I feel compelled to say it again, BMX Bandits was Kidman’s best movie…

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