For the first of her monthly blogs here on Must Watch Friday, Mills and Boon Modern Heat author Heidi Rice gives a Pink Heart society welcome to the great big guilty pleasure that is the new Hugh Jackman/Nicole Kidman romantic epic 'Australia'.
First-off I should fess up here and say if I was a nice person I would have left Australia to one of the Aussie contingent to wax lyrical about.
Why? Because (and there is a bit of a clue in the title) Baz Luhrmann's movie extravaganza is a homage to their homeland, the Wonderful Land of Oz: its vast open spaces; its eerie, timeless natural beauty; the good, the bad and the ugly strands of its recent history; its wealth of acting talent (not just Nic and Hugh, but veteran stars Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson and David Gulpilil, and young newcomer Brandon Walters); and last, but by no means least, Hugh Jackman's rather spectacular abs — just wait for the scene where he soaps off the trail dust by a campfire. (I went to see this film with my 16-year-old son, so Nicole wasn't the only one blushing!)
But first and foremost Australia is a larger-than-life romantic fantasy — and that's something we all love to wax lyrical about here at the PHS. So I thought, why not poach this movie from the Aussies, because I'm devious like that, I got there first — and I'm not that nice a person (especially when Hugh and his abs are up for grabs).
Now to the plot, in a nutshell:
Nicole's uptight English aristocrat arrives at her husband's broken-down Outback cattle station Faraway Downs courtesy of Hugh's hot, sweaty and roughly sexy drover called, um, Drover. She finds her husband has been murdered (convenient, that) and then has to save the station and the mixed-race Aboriginal lad Nullah (who she's sort of adopted) with Hugh's reluctant help.
Cue a life-changing cattle drive through lots of spellbinding scenery with Nic falling for Hugh, Hugh falling for Nic, Nic falling for Little Nullah, Nic falling for the strange alien beauty of the Australian landscape, Nullah falling for Hugh and Nic and the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and... Well, you get the picture, it's all one big love-in with Judy Garland bells on by the time they reach Darwin.
But that's not all...
I know, this is getting to be a pretty big nutshell, but bear with me. In the movie's three-hour plus running time (it ain't called 'The Antipodean Gone With the Wind' for nothing, folks), Luhrmann also throws in the Japanese bombing of Darwin, David Gulpilil's clairvoyant medicine man, a Wizard of Oz motif (geddit?), Bryan Brown's rapacious cattle baron, David Wenham's irredeemable rotter, murder by crocodile attack, a thundering stampede, Tara-style sunsets galore, the tragedy of Australia's Stolen Generation of Aboriginal children, vicious racism, raw courage, fire, brimstone, torrential rainstorms, a Colonial ball, Hugh in a tux, Hugh on a horse, Hugh by a campfire, Hugh getting nekid with Nicole, etc, etc, etc. Phew! It's exhausting stuff.
Now, I have to admit, this movie got a right proper roasting from the critics here in the UK... Which may have something to do with the fact that it's the teeniest, weeniest bit Over The Top (with a capital OTT).
So, if you're looking for restrained, subtle, intellectually challenging, historically accurate and politically balanced period drama you'll probably want to give Australia a fairly wide berth.
But if, on the other hand, you're looking for something that will take your breath away, blow your socks off, have you on the edge of your seat, and make you sweat, swoon, laugh (Nic's ultra-plummy Brit accent got the biggest laugh in my neck of the woods), cry and go all gooey inside, then this is your movie. Plus there's Hugh Jackman with soapy abs guilded by firelight (or have I mentioned that already?).
Guilty pleasures don't come much guiltier (or more pleasureable frankly).
Warm and fuzzy rating: A sublime 9 out of 10.
Heidi's latest Modern Heat, Pleasure, Pregnancy and a Proposition, is out as a Sexy Sensation this month in Oz and has already sold out on the Harlequin.au website (sorry).
It'll be out in North America as a Harlequin Presents in March while her next
Mills & Boon Modern Heat, Hot-Shot Tycoon, Indecent Proposal, is due out in the UK in June.
She loves to hear from readers (and fans of Hugh Jackman's abs) either through her website or her blog.