Hoity-toity Englishwoman Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) doesn’t believe for a moment that her husband is in Australia
Hoity-toity Englishwoman Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) doesn’t believe for a moment that her husband is in Australia selling his cattle station; he’s fooling around with Sheilas, she reckons, so even though it’s 1939 and she’s far too genteel to go bucketing around the world alone, she crosses the globe to bring him home – more out of irritation than any obvious romantic impulse.
She doesn’t find him – or not alive, anyway. But she does discover a vast land full of kangaroos, magical half-Aboriginal children and empire-building cattle barons. Oh, and there’s some bloke called The Drover (Hugh Jackman) who thinks she’s a nuisance but agrees to herd her cattle across the Northern Territory anyway, with a motley crew including a drunken accountant and Lady Sarah herself.
It’s a fine romp, epic in both ambition and visuals if not narrative – and if director Baz Luhrmann had stopped at the end of the love story’s trajectory, the audience would have left entirely happy. But he carries on, into war, the Japanese bombing of Darwin and other, less credible villainy, and it becomes clear that beneath his camp sensibility beats a conscientious heart, keen to bring the plight of the Stolen Generations – Aboriginals parted from their families – to a wider audience. It’s a laudable aim, but exploring the issue here is as ludicrous as expecting viewers of Gone With The Wind to worry about slavery. View this as Outback candyfloss and you’ll have a grand time – it’s terribly entertaining for too long, and its release date is perfect since it’s as camp as Christmas. But Rabbit-Proof Fence it ain’t.