A Stern But Warm Moral Lip
by Lauren Bans
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.
portrait of the author as a young hooplehead
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