Monday, December 01, 2008

Homesick

When you have lived in a variety of places, the concept of "home" becomes a little bit fuzzy. It seems to take on a more figurative quality than a physical one. I am glad to say that there are things I have dearly loved about each place I've lived: Colorado for the proximity to my excellent in-laws and the mountain towns; Houston for the most amazing set of friends a young mom could ever have; Utah for my family, its familiarity and the itchy feet I get every winter to pull out my skies. If (When?) we leave Oregon, I will miss the green and the wet, but mostly I'll miss the ocean.

But none of these places have been foremost in my mind the past several days. Instead, my thoughts have turned to the home where I lived just over a year and have little practical chance of ever returning to. In just a few weeks it will be 12 years since I left that place.

Australia.

I saw the movie by the same title on Saturday. Before going, I read several, mixed, critical reviews. I seldom do this before going to a movie, but I'm glad, in this case, that I did. It is important to approach the film with an understanding of what the director's intention was. Baz Luhrman set out to create an epic. And I mean epic in the Gone With the Wind, Ten Commandments and Wizard of Oz sense of the word. His story is a mix of a fable and history and miracles. His strong characters are placed on a technicolor backdrop and shot in an amazing array of situations both up close and from hundreds of miles out.

If you see this creation, you must immerse yourself in a world of film-making with the expectation to have an old-fashioned time at the movies. And such a time it is.

It took some time for me to settle into the rhythm of the film: the first 20 minutes or so is told from the narrative view-point of a biracial aboriginal boy (Nala) and the main characters are painted as almost-ridiculous caricatures. Then, when the other characters actually meet up with Nala, the actors assume a more realistic pose. The story is then told in two main parts--before and after happily-ever-after. A word on the three main actors:

The child is incredible. The film is really about him and his people. He carries the movie the way Haley Joel Osmet carried Sixth Sense and that adorable Maori girl carried Whale Rider. When this boy smiles, he steals every scene from two of the world's most beautiful people. His air is a perfect combination of innocence and wisdom. He is on the screen only minutes when you find yourself caring intensely about his fate.

Nicole Kidman is perfect as Lady Sarah Ashley. Again, the first several minutes of the film creates her as more of a parody of a great British lady than as a person. Then, within just a few hours of meeting Nala, she takes a horsewhip to her white foreman who is attempting to beat the child. She curses him off of her land without a thought about what will happen next and behind her beauty and poise you see a woman to be reckoned with. Her pencil-skirts and high heels deceive us into thinking she is a typical heroine in need of rescuing. But her intoning, "Just because that's how it is, doesn't mean that's how it should be," tells us that she, instead, will be the rescuer.

What can be said about Hugh Jackman? Perhaps only that People magazine previewed the film before publishing last week's article, because their assessment is spot on. As "The Drover" He is tough, tough, tough every minute. So tough that when startling moments of tenderness come through it is disarming and wonderful. For all the American films he has starred in, and how believable he is as an American, this movie is a powerful reminder that he is all Aussie.

Australians often call their country "Oz." When I first heard this expression, typical of the Aussie speech-mannerism to abbreviate any and all words when it is convenient to do so, I assumed I was hearing "Aus." then I saw somebody write it one day. Oz. Hmm . . . .

My favorite scene in the movie is when Nala is in need of comfort, and Drover tells Lady Ashley that as a woman, she must be the one to do it. She is awkward, having never really been around children before. Still, he listens wide-eyed and fascinated as she launches into a hilarious and horrible re-telling of the Wizard of Oz, complete with a terrible rendition of "Over the Rainbow." At its heart, this film is about each character's longing for a place they can call "home." Physical AND figurative.

When Dorothy learned what she needed to from her time in Oz, she went home, back to the arms of the people who loved her most. It is what she wanted; she was happy in Kansas. And yet, I can't help but wonder if there were days, in the years after her Dreamtime, that she sometimes stared idly out the window, forgetting all of her responsibilities for a few moments, and thought about Oz and how she might get back. In her black and white life, she remembered that magic place in all its technicolor glory, knowing she was better for her time away.

The Christmas I returned from Australia, my mother got an enormous wreath that she hung in her living room. It smelled of eucalyptus: just like Australia in the moments before a rainstorm. On lonely days, I sometimes sat in the room, closed my eyes and let the scent of Oz rush through my mind and remembered.

They say that "home is where the heart is." There is truth to that, but when you've left pieces of yourself in so many places, it isn't quite as clear. Perhaps that is what dreaming of that place over the rainbow is all about. The journey is as essential as the destination.

13 comments:

denedu said...

Oh, how I know the feeling. I, too, have been thinking on my past "homes." I miss them all so much. I have been sharing pictures with friends and family of my time spent in Portugal and in Germany. Two places that I hold dear to me. I don't know if I will ever be able to return to either place, but if I have any say in the matter it will be a big YES! I still call California home, too. Having grown up there I miss all the familiarities of my stomping grounds...closeness to family and friends...the beautiful weather. I'm not sure if we will ever return there to live, but I sure do miss it. I wonder where I would end up if I clicked my heals three times and said "there's no place like home?" :)

Doreen said...

We met up with Dave's adviser and family at Sea World on Friday. It made me so homesick for Logan. I still wish we could have found a way to stay there, even though I'm beginning to find little things I like about living in TX. I also get homesick for Germany sometimes. Especially when I'm having a not-so-great day and want to be close to my family. I do wonder where we'll end up. Maybe TX is going to be "it" for the next few years, but who knows.

Z. Marie said...

Well said. It's very hard for me to identify "home" after eight states and now one other country (and what promises to be many more to come). And I do still dream of places, even the ones I didn't like so much at the time.

Yankee Girl said...

Love your review. I think it helped me, as well, to go in having read some mixed reviews. In the end (as you have seen) I loved it. And loved Hugh Jackman.

I responded to your comment on my blog but thought I do so again just in case you don't go back to the comments. In short: I'm keeping Viggo because I did catch a bit of the LOTR marathon. Watch the Horatio Hornblower movies (if you haven't) to see why we love Ioan--boyish charm combined with loyalty and courage. And I am going to be checking out X-Men

Thanks

Christie said...

Great post. And aren't you a bit of Dorothy yourself? Learning what you needed to while in the land of Oz and then returning home to live your life?

The Wall Street Journal reviewed ths movie too, and liked it. (Personally, I liked your review better. It made more sense, had more structure, went a little deeper.) It's a movie I'm definately planning to see. Thanks for your part in building the anticipation I'm feeling!

Happy Holidays! (Which means enjoy the days leading up to Christmas. When Christmas gets a little closer I'll say, "Merry Christmas." To me "Happy Holidays" has nothing to do with taking Christ out of Christmas. Just in case you were wondering.)

Sunnie said...

i have wondered how that movie was. they didn't do much to make it look interesting based on the previews. and it is funny to try and figure out where "home" really is when you have moved so much and have family everywhere. i think it's okay to have many places you can call "home".

Ashlee said...

I really liked the movie too. I came away feeling very full artistically. We would move back to Australia in a heartbeat--except that it really is SO far away.

Brian and Courtni said...

What a great blog entry -- especially meaningful to me right now. We haven't seen the movie yet, but it made me contemplate how much I will miss the people and life that we have established here. I agree with your thoughts on home and since I don't know if we will ever really settle in one place, I think you are "spot on" when you talked about it being figurative.

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

At this point in my life, I would say that home is simply where my family is. It's where my husband and daughter reside, wherever that may be. At my parents' home their presence and its years of familiarity lend it a certain cozy comfort that I don't experience in other places, but there's also a distinct feeling that we are (very welcome) guests and that home is somewhere else.

Of course, I've spent all my married life in my home state within an hour's drive of my parents (after venturing away for college and a mission), so if we end up moving a thousand miles away it will be interesting to see whether I yearn for the familiar or adopt the new because my little family is there.

Genjunky said...

Oh, you sum up my feelings so well! Jeff tried to tell me that I like Texas so well because of the romance it holds: first house, first "home", and all that happened to us with our friends there, but it is so much more to me than that! The friends...who are rather scattered these days - and I'll admit I miss the house. I'll have to go see Australia - I'll admit I was a fence sitter. Thank you for your wonderful perspective every day!

Slyck and Slim said...

I love reading what you write; what you think. You made me remember that I want to see that movie. Home, in this life, isn't just one place, is it? I am too tired tonight to leave anything deep and witty, so I will just say that I enjoyed reading this post. It was the deepest thinking I've done in a while. :)

ELASTICWAISTBANDLADY said...

Australia......I'm going there one day.

I didn't partake of such sweeping high-brow cinematic ventures this week. I instead got to sit through Twilight (Twice!) with my girls.

ELASTICWAISTBANDLADY said...

The Houston Chronicle's fashion section on Thursday spotlighted the gorgeous costume designs that Nicole Kidman wore in the film along with showing some cheaper end ways to recreate the classic/timeless look.