“Australia” – Joanna Langfield reviews

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Baz Luhrman’s sweeping romantic adventure is packed to the gills with something for everyone. And, like that wise old adage, this hugely ambitious epic proves, while you can please some of the people some of the time, you can’t please all of them all the time.

Essentially, this is one movie in three parts: a very wacky, oddly toned prologue, a dandily entertaining body and a handsomely mounted, but almost unnecessary coda. And, at a running time of 165 minutes, all of it could have been trimmed.

But when it works, and yes, it often does, Australia works beautifully. Nicole Kidman brings a real movie star glamour to her role as a spoiled 1930’s Englishwoman, come Down Under to bring home that wayward husband of hers. It’s a rude awakening indeed as she arrives to discover said husband’s been murdered, there are troubled souls minding the family ranch and, oh yeah, that cow tender, well, he’s not so bad, either. Soon, we’re off on an appreciative homage to the old western: our heroine finding her inner strength as “Mrs. Boss”, Hugh Jackman looking spiffy riding the range and a few other things, too. And if westerns aren’t your thing, not to worry: there’s a parallel to The Wizard of Oz that also runs throughout, mostly involving a young half-Aborigine boy, wonderfully played by newcomer Brandon Walters.

Frankly, I would have been happy to pack up my popcorn and leave it right there, but, hey, gotta do the war, right? And so we have our hugely cinematic World War II battle scenes, the deaths, the rescues and the melodrama. It’s all very impressively staged, but, somehow, too, kind of cold.

Luhrman has stuffed this bulging feast with just about everything he could think of: it all looks great. The only thing he forgot was to involve us, the awe-struck viewers, with the emotions that would make this big, ambitious package live as long in our hearts as do the Hollywood movies he salutes.

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Joanna Langfield (Archived Contributor)

Her voice is heard throughout the 50 states and around the world by more than one million listeners on her syndicated radio programs: Joanna Langfield’s People Report and Video and Movie Minute. She’s also seen and heard as a regular contributing commentator on CNN International, CNN, Fox News and CNBC. In print, her articles have been published in such high profile magazines as Video Review and McCall’s. Joanna Langfield is known for taking interviews to another level with probing looks at celebrities’ insights rather than just their latest projects. As a result, she’s secured a niche among the nation’s premier interviewers and movie critics. Joanna began her career on the production staff of a local Boston television station. She then focused her energies towards radio and produced talk shows at WMEX-AM in Boston. After moving to New York, she became executive producer at WMCA-AM for talk show personalities Barry Gray and Sally Jessy Raphael. She began hosting a one-minute movie review spot which, in turn, led to her top-rated weekend call in-show, The Joanna Langfield Show (1980-83). Joanna moved to WABC-AM to host The Joanna Langfield Show on Saturday nights from 9:00pm to midnight. It was the highest rated show in its time slot. From 1987-1989, Joanna hosted Today’s People on the ABC Radio network, which was fed daily to over 300 stations around the country. She also appeared on WABC-TV as a regular on-air contributor. In 1989, Joanna formed her radio production company, Joanna Langfield Entertainment Reports, to syndicate her radio reports. She is considered to be one of the top authoritative commentators on the entertainment industry. Read Lagfield's recent articles below. For her Women On Film archive, type "Joanna Langfield" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).