By Sharon Eberson / Tuesday, Nov. 25
I'm off until Dec. 3, enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends, but I saw "Australia" last night, and I can't leave without saying a few words (watch for Barbara Vancheri's review tomorrow):
After seeing the film, I'm in a great mood today -- and not just because I got to ogle Hugh Jackman for almost three hours. Although that's worth a return trip. But it's nice to know that talented people are still commited to making "big" Hollywood pictures on occasion. I felt that way about "Atonement" last year, although these are obviously very different films. Sweeping epics with fabulous scenery that overshadows any special effects, plus star-power performances, are so few and far between they should be appreciated when they come along. And they usually have a surprise or two up their sleeves: Brandon Walters, the 12-year-old nonactor who plays the "half-caste" Nullah, is extraordinary and steals most scenes he's in, which are a lot. It's as much his movie as it is the big stars'.
Seeing David Wenham play an over-the-top villain opposite Jackman reminded me of a movie that needed to take a few dozen steps back in its ambition. Wenham played Jackman's nerdy sidekick Carl in Stephen Sommers' "Van Helsing." The two Australian actors competed for the lead role in that 2004 film, and while Jackman got to play the muscle-bound hero, Wenham instead slouched to hide his height, shaved part of his head and hid his physique in monks robes to play Carl. You've also seen him in the "Lord of the Rings" and "300" -- and he joins an all-star cast in "Public Enemies," with Johnny Depp as John Dillinger and Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis. (Another Aussie, "Lost's" Emilie de Ravin, also is in the Michael Mann film.)
Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, who has such a terrific eye, really likes to make his bad guys dastardly. Note Richard Roxburgh in Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge!" (and in "Van Helsing," too). But he does create juicy roles for actors willing to come along for the ride, like Nicole Kidman and Jackman, and that's a lot of fun to watch.
Luhrmann appears to be taking a rest while the fate of the big-budget "Australia" plays out this week. Whateve he does next, I'm there.