On Monday I took a trip to the movie Australia, not the country, in case you were wondering! I absolutely loved the film - it was fabulous.
Baz Lurmann, the director (of Moulin Rouge and Romeo & Juliet fame), has done a fantastic job of creating an epic romance which has real heart and spirit.
At 165 minutes (two hours and 45 minutes) it's a bum-achingly long movie, but I never felt bored, although at times it did feel like several movies in one, as you think it's all over and then another strand plays out.
The movie is part love story, part adventure, an Australian western and a bit of a wartime epic, all combined to try and recapture that classic Gone With The Wind feel and in my mind it works.
The hugely underrated Hugh Jackman makes a great hunky leading man and Nicole Kidman is wonderful as the posh, but progressive English Lady. Together they have great chemistry on screen.
The story also has a real authentic Australian feel. Filmed on location and written, directed and starring Australians and also using some of the darker times in Australian history, such as the treatment of the native Aboriginal people, plus weaving into the movie their unique culture and beliefs.
The film takes place before World War II in Northern Australia in 1939 and begins with Nicole Kidman's aristocratic character, Lady Sarah Ashley, traveling down under from England to discover if her husband is cheating on her. Instead she arrives to find him murdered after trying to make their sprawling outback ranch successful regardless of the sinister efforts of local cattle baron who almost has a monopoly of the Australian cattle market.
Thrown together with Hugh Jackman's 'Drover', she attempts to prevent a hostile takeover of her property by driving her 2,000 cattle across country to Darwin to fulfill a profitable British Army beef order. After being abandoned by her ranch work-hands, she sets off with a motley crew of her remaining staff, including a young Aboriginal boy, Nullah.
He has just lost his mother and is in hiding from the local police who want to send him off to a religious Mission, which is what they did to half-cast 'creamy' children to 'breed' the Aboriginal out of him (like I said, a dark stain in Australia's history).
Anyway, the take charge Lady Sarah or Mrs Boss as she becomes affectionally know as, inevitably becomes a surrogate mother for the boy against the conventions of the day and also embarks upon a forbidden love with Drover, who is of a different social standing and looked down upon by the locals for his friendship of the Aboriginal people.
In the nick of time they win the Army contract by droving her cattle to Darwin against fierce opposition and sabotage and rebuild the ranch property.
They should live happily ever after, but blackmail involving Nullah and the Japanese bombing of Darwin after the historic events of Pearl Harbour, lead to more drama and tearful reunions.
Like I said there's a lot of strands to the overall story, but it's a great original movie in today's world of remakes and 're-imaginings'. At times it brought a tear to my eye and also made me laugh out loud - the Kangaroo scene towards the beginning of the film was totally unexpected and great black humour. I also found the mix Aboriginal mysticism, combined with the racism and politics of the time made for an interesting, truly Australian story.
I give Australia a much deserved four **** stars.
As you all know at the end of the movie I almost bumped into two other lovers, Balthazar Getty and Sienna Miller, who were off to see a film at the ArcLight (maybe it was Australia, who knows?).
Next on my list of must-see movies are Frost/Nixon, Doubt, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Seven Pounds and Marley & Me.
It's going to be a busy month...