No doubt about it – this reviewer has mixed reactions to Australia, the movie. The characters and plot devices are exaggerated caricatures of all that has been classic in cinematography and depictions of this land. At one level it comes across as a kind of “Gone with the Wind Down Under” – and in the meantime throw in some subtle allusions to Crocodile Dundee, Wuthering Heights, The Sundowners, Pearl Harbour – not to mention direct lashings of The Wizard of Oz as a major plot device. So blatant and over the top is this approach that it taps into the nostalgia of my childhood experiences at the Woodville Saturday afternoon flicks with Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy.
At the same time and not entirely escaping these means, a deeper story runs. It is narrated (in pidgin English, if you don’t mind) from the perspective of an 11 year old aboriginal boy, and there is a deep and respectful consciousness within the screenplay of the not so long ago discredited assimilation policy and its cruel legacy of the Stolen Generations. Also, the playing out of the melodramatic “hero- heroine-villian” theme has an uncanny resemblance to the current real-life dramas of the Western economic crisis.
The message is simple – if you’re going to live life fully – you must have a story and live into its completion. Sounds like a paraphrase of something that Jesus said. This time it is the medium of cinematic cliche, nostalgia and the international perception of this land Down Under that attempts to deliver it.
Because the movie both entertains and at the same time “slips the message under the door”, it may well succeed.