A commanding majority of Rotten Tomatoes critics have today reminded themselves that Baz Luhrman, the director of Australia, is more or less certifiable (in a creative, go-for-broke sense of the term) as well as recognized the fact that Australia itself is a work of overwhelming psychedelic cinematic kitsch.
Many of them clearly emerged from their Australia screenings “drained and weakened,” as Salon‘s Stephanie Zacharek puts it, “as if suffering from a gradual poisoning at the hands of a mad scientist.” Or, as I put it on 11.20, as if “injected with Baz serum.”
It is marked, as the Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Phillips puts it, by “constant visual redirection, strenuous comic relief, a synthetically preordained, romance, on the verge of morphing into a singing-cowboy musical. With Zeros.”
N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis calls it “a pastiche of genres and references wrapped up — though, more often than not, whipped up — into one demented and generally diverting horse-galloping, cattle-stampeding, camera-swooping, music-swelling, mood-altering widescreen package…a testament to movie love at its most devout, cinematic spectacle at its most extreme, and kitsch as an act of aesthetic communion.”
Marshall Fine calls it “sprawling, silly, overlong and bizarrely bogus-looking. All of that scenery — and Luhrmann is dicking around on sound stages with green screens. Plot and character are both drawn in the broadest strokes; a subtle moment would die of loneliness.”
New York‘s David Edelstein says it’s “blessed with dialogue that defies parody. In one scene, the transplanted Englishwoman (Nicole Kidman) gazes moist-eyed on the rough-and-ready cattleman (Hugh Jackman) as he caresses an edgy stallion, and you know her line will be a clever variation on ‘You really have a gift with horses.’ Instead, she says, ‘You really have a gift with horses.’ It’s like that all the way through.”
I especially love this Edelstein riff on Kidman’s facial work: “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. In one scene, she haltingly sings ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ to an orphaned half-caste; but watching that big immovable forehead, I thought of another bit from The Wizard of Oz: ‘Oiiil caaan.’