Welcome to the first in what may become a series of posts written in the style of a critical review.
Flop, Flop, Flop (The Nation, Not The Movie. Although…)
This latest version of Australia hit our screens in 2013 and has really only delivered abject disappointment for the majority of serious viewers since that time. While it contains some elements of high drama, these moments have seemed hollow and, dare I say, fake. One can only surmise that shady dealings by the political and media ‘movers and shakers’ at executive levels of the studio are directing a less than stellar production department.
Hence, this iteration of Australia has been nothing short of the proverbial flop, and a cinematic failure of the highest order.
Nevertheless, and although it pains your reviewer greatly to relive the agony of the experience, an Insider Review requires analysis…
Deviating quite significiantly from the previous chapter, Australia almost immediately descends into farce when the main cast graces the screen with their presence. Strong leading men were called for by the studio, and what appears instead are Anthony Abbott and Mal ‘Truffles’ Turnbull; frankly, a more hollow and over-hyped pair would be hard to even locate, let alone coerce into ‘starring’ in this lemon. The fact that the two rarely share the screen simultaneously is a blessing that only just maintains a degree of almost-unbearable watchability.
Set in the present, this episode explores the wide-ranging and overtly concerted efforts of the Conservative Gang to tear down everything established in the previous production by the Used-To-Be’s, who we know were trying to pretend to do good things while dramatically and painfully caving-in to their subconscious desire to just give up being anything decent and become more like the Conservative Gang.
While this episode seemingly tries to be the quality drama that was promised in early drafts, it rapidly becomes little more than a failed black comedy.
Set on a remote continent known as Australia, hence the title, on a dying planet ironically sodomised-to-death by its most social and (allegedly) intelligent inhabitants, Australia reveals itself to be a tale of liars and crooks intent on plundering their particular cubicle of civilisation for all it is worth and sailing off to luxurious retirement in either Central America or the Carribean, and engorging the Scrooge-vaults with galleon-loads of cash along the way. Of course, there is nothing new in this story, and the only surprising component of the whole affair is that the old-school Egalitarian Masses and the more fluid, ‘sensible’, members of the Aspirational Masses haven’t yet banded together to storm the Bastille, as it were, and wheel out the dusty old guillotines.
The episode opens with a raft of promises delivered by the seemingly-unelectable Abbott, and promoted by the screaming Media Gang, who moan and wail about the horrendous state of all things because of the woeful Used-To-Be’s and how badly this episode needs Abbott to captain the ship. Of course, most of the gullible Aspirational Masses, all the millions of them, are swayed by this (almost inexplicably), and Abbott sweeps to power. Within days, predictably, the promises that brought him the top job begin to be broken with apparent glee by the Conservative Gang, who have morphed from smiling suits into a depression-era razor gang.
Nothing good at all happens for 1 year and 362 days, save for some bizarre attempts at comedy which provide some moderate, but baffling, amusement. Abbott eating a raw onion complete with its skin for the local media in an apparent case of mental implosion did see the screening audience break out in spontaneous raucous laughter. This was possibly the only ‘highlight’ of the entire first half of the episode. At the end of this mini-era, ‘Truffles’ Turnbull ascends to the captaincy, finally, maybe, delivering something approaching good viewing, after an earlier abortive effort, and offers some hope that the episode may actually be for some worthwhile reason.
While the general sense of schadenfreude is high at this point, seeing Abbott pulled back into a supporting role, there is a nagging feeling that things might not actually get any better at all. These feelings are subsequently borne out in reality in the scenes that follow, and the episode plunges viewers to new depths as ‘Truffles’ seems to forget his lines and appears to have forgotten why he is there on the silver screen at all.
The episode overflows with horrendous tales of corruption, rorting, abuse- and murder-by-proxy, most of the latter being a continuation of Used-To-Be policy in illegal offshore detention centres, better understood as concentration camps, while in-cubicle less-fortunates add a fresh element of torture-porn for the protagonists. And, even though the Conservative Gang have got it pretty good, having the keys to the cubicle treasury continually proves a far too easy and tempting honey-trap for their less discreet ‘honourable members’. Again, many viewers will be stunned that blades aren’t being sharpened and old jails re-commissioned.
As alluded to earlier, there is some hope for redemption offered up as the conclusion begins to take shape, with ‘Truffles’ holding the reigns. However, and despite his self-proclaimed ‘progressive’ character, he is utterly beholden to factional elements of the Conservative Gang Old Guard bereft of faces or names (much akin to the Opus Dei of the Catholic Church of Satan, or similar). Consequently, the cubicle known as Australia continues its downward spiral and sharper divisions arise between the various Masses. Sovereign wealth, moral currency, global responsibility, and human decency are all auctioned to the highest bidder in rigged reverse auctions, mostly subsidised by the lower socio-economic echelons of the aforementioned various Masses.
There is a last-ditch attempt at drama with a good outcome when ‘Truffles’ faces his first non-coup popular vote in the top job, and his Conservative Gang is aided once again by the screeching Media Gang. In the face of being wiped out in the vote, opinion polls are rigged and scenarios manufactured; the Media Gang pulls out all the dirty tricks, including the old jack-hammer repeat-repeat-repeat-until-it’s-true trick. Bizarrely, these schemes work, again, and the Conservative Gang scrapes through the vote, on substantially reduced numbers, and somehow is still running the cubicle into the ground as the conclusion bears down on us all.
Overall, Australia is a nonsensical piece that simply doesn’t work. It stumbles and trips its way through the whole production, in a manner that shouldn’t be at all possible, let alone functional, yet the major cast members seem supremely satisfied with their performance, even though in a just world they would be obliterated from seats of power and jailed, bankrupted, hanged, or shot. It’s almost as if they ‘know’ that they will be protected from the wrath of The Academy by some higher power. Ludicrous.
Australia fails to live up to the expectations of the wider cinematic community, fails to deliver any evidence of its meaningful existence, and fails to advance anything but return on investment for the Scrooges. It is a bizarre tale of unreal proportions. What occurs inside it could not actually happen in the real world. Surely. But here it is, on the big screen, a grand waste of time for most viewers. True believers in extracting wealth-for-self at any cost may be the only audience that this episode finds favour with – in fact, they will probably enjoy it immensely, and good luck to them for that. For the rest of us, though, Australia is an embarrassment and is exceptionally difficult to digest.
We are left wondering, “why?, how?, what the actual fuck is going on here?”. And in the end most will wish they’d spent their time elsewhere, doing something worthwhile, like impaling their own eyeballs with toothpicks, or concocting plans for a violent revolt.
Australia is the worst output of its kind in almost a hundred years and I can only give it half of one star out of five possible stars, and even this paltry score is a stretch.
Wick Burner’s Insider Review Rating: