Screen Australia never stood a chance.
This has everything a government film funding body would dream of.
Sunset shots of the outback.
A helpful Aboriginal guy who appears from nowhere to grill our protagonist a rabbit.
There’s even a Silly American at whom we can all laugh and thereby define ourselves by what we’re not. Silly Americans with their accents. And their nukes. And their crap version of The Office. Right? RIGHT? Guys? You with me? HAHA! Yeah… stupid Americans. Right?
About 20 minutes in I actually – and I’m not joshing you – I actually leant over to my wife and whispered, If only this film had an affable ethnic minority character, it would officially become a sacred text for Australia’s cultural elite.
Then – and I’m not joshing you – a smiling turban-clad Afghan camel wrangler called Sallay Mahomet enters from stage left. He actually does. And he has a friendly occa accent to remind us he’s just like us. So we should all just get along. And vote Green.
But here’s the thing.
Despite all the nice things turtle-necked rectangular-spectacled critics are saying about this movie, it’s actually very good. Probably the best Australian film I’ve seen in years. And I’m not even being sarcastic here. I’m being more serious than this guy.
Tracks is the true, best-selling story of a delicate snowflake called Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska) who trekked 1,700 miles from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean with a dog and a few camels. No Nikes or sunscreen though. Too mainstream.
Why’d she do it?
“When people ask me why I’m doing it, my usual answer is, ‘Why not?'”
Hmmm… that is some deep shit right there. See what she did? See how, with one eyebrow raised, she answered your question with another question? She dropped a LOGIC BOMB on your ass. Yeah. That’s what she did.
In the movie it’s actually not clear why she did it. Something about a childhood suicide. And finding herself. And yoga. Presumably some lentils in there also.
Well as it turns out, young Robyn finds a lucrative book deal pretty quick, and is now a self-taught expert on… nomads.
“Where did we cause less damage to ourselves, to our environment, and to our animal kin?” When we were all humble nomads, of course.
Back in those good ol’ Paleolithic days when our air was clean, our water was pure, our food was organic and free-range, we all got plenty of exercise and… umm… nobody lived past thirty. Let alone know what a wheel was.
In Tracks, Robyn’s trek is bankrolled by National Geographic magazine, to which she purports to object because all the attendant fame ruins her attempts at an authentic transformational experience in the desert.
LoL. The whole charade reminds me of your drunk uncle objecting loudly to another glass of wine at Christmas lunch while simultaneously pouring himself another glass of wine.
Or that Simpsons episode where ‘reclusive author’ Thomas Pynchon yells at passing motorists, “get your picture taken with a reclusive author!”
But damn, it’s a good movie. A good Australian movie. The acting. The script. There’s even a few lols sprinkled through the 110 minutes.
So Tracks will win all the awards. It deserves to. The Australian Film Institute will actually invent more awards, jam them into t-shirt guns and hire rectangular-spectacled people in turtle-necks to shoot them at this movie. Three of the camels will jointly win ‘best camel in a motion picture’. The fourth camel won’t win because he totally phoned-in his performance and you can tell he never went to NIDA because there was no pathos in his performance and he’ll wind up with an occasional role as Alf’s shop assistant on Home and Away before winning third prize in Tropfest at the tender age of 17.
But, will Tracks break out of the latte-belt and reach the multiplexes where actual people go? You know, like, actual people with actual money who actually pay to see movies?
Or will it be like The Turning, which has film buffs congratulating themselves for breaking the ‘$1m barrier’: Australian cinema’s very own Participation Award. Somebody hand that kid a lamington. He participated. This is literally one fifteenth the earnings of Wog Boy 2 and one ninetieth the Australian earnings of Anchorman. But give him a lamington anyway. Because he broke the ‘$1m barrier’.
Props to Screen Australia for pulling out the big guns and doing their darndest with Tracks, though. They’ve got the big Hollywood name in Mia Wasikowska, fresh from The Turning which, by the way, made one twenty-fifth what Mia personally earned from Alice in Wonderland. They’ve also got a best-selling book behind them (Tracks). And they’ve gone and blown $12m making it into a film, which is unheard of for any Australian film not directed by Baz.
I hope Tracks is a success. I really do.