* * 1/2
At first, I thought Nicole Kidman's performance was going to be a disaster. She's painted as an overly-prim peacock and acts the part to off-putting effect. Her character is supposed to loosen up, but Kidman simply drops the act and quickly. That's the problem with Baz, his vision is so large that he can't match the stuff in the upper right corner with the stuff in the lower left. There's a cattle stampede and the CG vistas and glossy effects work against the danger of the scene. He aims to tell the story of the aborigine, but he's too enamored with its spiritual side, over-extending the muddled imagery while shortening the characters.
This was a reminder for me that I think Baz Luhrmann is a very good director at times, with a cinematic imagination that approaches real greatness. A number of sequences (like the cattle race, the Japanese attack and a tension-filled society ball) work beautifully on the grand canvas Baz likes to paint on. It's difficult to get the balance of artificial emotional reality just right. When it works there's nothing else like a Baz Luhrmann cocktail. Unfortunately there's no consistency to the quality and the heightened elements just as often are too fake, too cartoonish or too sweet. I'm really glad I watched this, though I was checking the Time Remaining on it a lot.