In the first few minutes of the film, I was struck by the over-the-top, slightly overacted, almost cartoonish feel, but then I remembered this is a Baz film, and settled right into it. After all, look at Moulin Rouge, a great favourite of mine. Australia is over the top in much the same way, but just as much fun too. (At several points in the film, my kids and I were almost rolling around in our seats with laughter -- all of it genuine.)
Usually, when watching a movie, I will be "in the film" -- I become one of the characters, just as I do when reading a book. I am immersed, swept up, part of it. Baz's films, because I'm noticing the cinematography or direction or acting or whatever, distance me a little from this experience but give me another kind of experience. It's not a greater or lesser experience, just a different one. It's set up from the beginning so isn't an issue. And it's great to see a director with balls enough to have his own vision, to do something different, something away from what everyone else is attempting.
The parallel when I'm reading is the second-person addresses (as authorial interruption). I don't mind these if they're part of the experience. What I can't abide is when I'm in the middle of a story and suddenly the writer addresses me and rips me out of my immersion. If I'm aware from the beginning I won't be immersed in the same way, so it doesn't happen. I'm not reminded that I'm reading because I'm already aware, in a way that I'm not in a "straight" novel. Maybe it's to do with the way I read (conceptually rather than visually) -- I'm not sure.
I do have to say that past the first few minutes, I stopped noticing the style of the movie and just got swept right up in the story.
Australia is part iconic old droving movies like The overlanders, part love story a la Titanic and a ripping good yarn. I can see why Oprah told Nicole and Hugh that it was the movie we need to see. I didn't notice the length at all. And in the dark moments when I think of my book and despair at how the structure isn't a classic beginning, middle and end but rather seems to embody several stories, I can take heart that it does so in much the same way that Australia does. In my novel it's a military coup -- and that could be a novel in itself -- and the parallel to that in this movie is the droving story. But that's not where the film ends -- it then takes up life on the station and the bombing of Darwin; in my novel it's the quest story. It's amazing what movies can teach us -- even if only to sit back and chill out!
So would I recommend Australia: you bet. Especially if you like cows and horses, the gorgeous Hugh and Nicole and landscape, action, adventure and romance.