Review: Skip characters and just enjoy Australian scenery in flat 'Dirt Music'

Kelly Macdonald and Garrett Hedlund make music, but it's the landscape that is sweet in this middling romance

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

There's a stunning travelogue of Western Australia in "Dirt Music," it's a shame it's interrupted by all the movie's characters, dialogue and plotting. 

This is pure tragic romance fluff, based on author Tim Winton's 2001 novel. There's a fishing magnate, his unfaithful wife, and the poacher for whom she falls. It's rough around the edges and not all there, character-wise. It wants to be much deeper than it is. 

Garrett Hedlund and Kelly Macdonald in "Dirt Music."

The great Kelly Macdonald is Georgie, who is living with Jim (David Wenham), a wealthy Down Under fisherman. But Georgie isn't happy, and one night when skinny dipping she comes across Lu (Garrett Hedlund), a gruff former musician who sneaks into Jim's waters at night and raids his bounty. 

Lu is the silent type, as he's hiding a deeply damaged past. Georgie's attraction to him is purely animalistic, but Jack Thorne's script doesn't spell out their connection any further, and when she goes after him after he disappears to far-off Coronation Island, you're left to either connect the dots that have gone unexplained or just sit back and just enjoy the scenery. 

But ah, the scenery. "Dirt Music" does more for Australia than Baz Lurhmann's "Australia" did for Australia, and cinematographer Sam Chiplin captures the continent lovingly, from the red sands to the crashing waves along the west coast. (For what it's worth, Hudlund and Macdonald aren't bad to look at, either.) 

Yet the implausibility of the story and the lack of depth of the characters renders "Dirt Music" a purely visual pleasure. Director Gregor Jordan paints a nice picture, but that's about it.


'Dirt Music'


Not rated: Sexuality, violence, language

Running time: 104 minutes