‘Faraway Downs’ Is Pure Cheese You’ll Want To Turn Off But Won’t, Somehow

Thor Benander
Thor Benander is the Editor-in-Chief of The Antagonist and a father of four. He’s a lover of ancient history, Greek food, and sports. He loves to travel and thinks that if libraries were the center of American society, many things would improve overnight. You can hit him up at hilordcastleton@gmail.com.

‘Faraway Downs’ on Hulu is a story from the brainmill of Baz Luhrmann which revisits his 2008 film ‘Australia,’ except now it’s told in a six-part movie. We used to call that a ‘miniseries,’ but whatever. Luhrmann had some time during the pandemic and wondered if he could really flesh out some of the elements of the story that he didn’t have time to capture in his first go-around: namely some of the storylines around indigenous peoples and the cut-by-focus-group bummer ending that he preferred. The net result, though, is that you get Hugh and Nicole and lots of sweeping, musical-esque camera movements, random closeups, and panoramic glorification of the Outback. Within the first few minutes, you’ll hear the stilted dialogue and see the structural overacting – theatrical acting more suited for live performance, really, and you’ll think “PASS.” But then, if you’re too lazy to actually reach for the remote, you may just enjoy yourself.

I’ve only seen the first two “movies,” but the story centers around the character Lady Sarah Ashley (Played by Nicole Kidman), a whip-sharp, British, woman of means who quips about her husband’s continued absence and philandering while mounted upon a thoroughbred and kitted out in impeccable equestrian regalia. Through the use of a subtle technique known as “horse-splaining,” we learn that they own a parcel of land in Australia as big as the state of Delaware, which is – I’m certain – the way all British aristocrats do their various forms of dick measuring.

ARISTOCRAT #1: “In Australia, I subjugated a clan of natives spread out as far as the state of Rhode Island.”

ARISTOCRAT #2: “Well in Rhodesia, I subjugated several tribes of natives who made their home in roughly the acreage of South Carolina!”

During the besteeded exposition we also learn that she’s fed up with her husband, whom EVERYONE adores, and she intends to leave the romantic shores of Great Britain and set off for the penal colony of Australia to not only kick her beloved and universally admired husband to the proverbial curb, but to sell this ridiculous ranch at a fraction of its actual worth to a minor Australian louse and warlord so that she can afford the finest hay for her horsebabies en L’Angleterre proper.

No, mum. Don’t go. <– one assumes some of the help half-heartedly mumbled about her departure to a foreign land.

But this Unsinkable Molly Brown refuses to be sunk. Off she goes, and that’s where the hijinks ensue. It turns out that a woman of means arriving with the finest of luggage in nine pieces is not something the thuggish citizenry of Australia understand. They’re all prison-spawn, after all! Before she ever even makes landfall, a fight breaks out over one white guy being a bigot in front of another white guy, and so the second white guy, who is the good white guy, beats up every bigot in the bar where the first white guy said a bigoted thing but which was widely supported.

It turns out that the good white guy is Hugh Jackman and he goes by the moniker THE DROVER, which seems like a pretty kick ass sci-fi name if you ask me, and wasted here.

Lady Sarah’s husband is not there. He has dispatched The Drover to convey the English jewel to their ranch. The Drover, as you might imagine, is a bit rough around the edges, despite having a smile that’s whiter and more intimidating than the Cliffs of Dover. He’s not one of those bros that gives a rats ass about titles or murderous caste systems. He does what he wants, he pals around with who he wants and he droves what he wants. Oh, and if you’re in a bar full of racists and you mention that he hangs out with the people who actually owned the land before it was stolen by white blokes, he’ll not only cave your face in, but he’ll systematically brain everyone else in the pub for good measure.

Now we get the fish out of water story that every middle aged American yearns for with masturbatory glee. The dirty old dust dingo in Hugh Jackman and the lavender-scented, effete, chaste, queen in Nicole Kidman crammed into the cab of his shitwagon, so tightly thrown together you can barely see them in there through the opaque mud-dust on the windshield.

They don’t get on. That much is clear from the get-go. He really likes her husband, for starters. Everyone from the sailors on her yacht to the dockworkers, to the drunks in the bar to the indigenous people mention that they love her husband and they comment about what a great fuckin’ bloke he is. The man has left a wake of delighted people in his path. WHAT A PRICK.

Anyhoo, the prick is dead when she gets there. We never get to see the charm that has dazzled folks across two continents. But we do get to see the moment where she realizes that she needs The Drover.

Duh. It’s Hugh Jackman. He’s a goddamned beaut. Lady, we all need The Drover. In fact there’s probably a mathematical equation that would explain how long a human would sit through a C+ script and a weirdly shot, borderline campy miniseries in order to get to the next Hugh Jackman close up, smile, or sidelong glance of contempt. Hint: it’s pretty damn long. That said, I’m not one to typically judge a book by its cover, but ultimately it’s what you’re going to get if you like your westerns shot by a dude that looks like an ayahuasca guru.

I watched this with my better half and we spent the whole time laughing and poking fun at the story, but by the end of the second movie, I can’t say that we won’t go back just to see how the whole thing ends. It’s certainly not good television, but it is, strangely, okay television.

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