Kangaroo

“All the scruples and the emotions and the regrets in English novels do seem a waste of time out here . . . ” Well, you can say that again, old sock. The rambling, prophetic D.H. Lawrence novel, based on his and his wife's short stay in Australia, has been reduced to plot and random speeches—in other words, to nothing worth doing in the first place. Director Tim Burstall makes edifying certainty out of the author's protean brooding: attitudes come prepackaged in safe Masterpiece Theatre wrappings (the dark authoritarianism underlying the novel hardly registers against the film's complacent liberal assumptions) and characters assault each other with the sparkling shells of arguments, making a mockery of Lawrence's multilayered complexity. “Australia has no inside life of any sort,” Colin Friels's author at one point announces, as wife Judy Davis sagely nods and swallows her gutturals for the umptieth time (or clenches her face and goes “Oh!”—I don't remember which). Maybe not, but neither does this movie. With John Walton, Julie Nihill, and Hugh Keays-Byrne.

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