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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Australia: A Movie About Contract Law

A few days ago, in a fit of holiday and pre-exam frivolity, I went to see Australia, the latest Baz Luhrmann – Nicole Kidman collaboration.  It’s quite different from Moulin Rouge (no singing to speak of), yet it’s still a similar kind of oddball high-kinetic vision, and a lot of fun.  The one flaw of the movie (okay, other than the fact that it lacks Ewan McGregor) is that it tries to weave too many strands together – a sense of the beauty of the outback, cattle ranching, business competition, racism, aboriginal rights, WWII, mysticism, a love story.  Too much for one movie.

Aside from all these themes, I perceived that Baz Luhrmann wanted to make a movie about contract law.  When Lady Sarah (Kidman) arrives in Australia, the dominating cattle baron, King Carney, offers her a lowball price for her cattle ranch.  If she can succeed in driving her cattle to the Port of Darwin, she will win the contract for supply of the army, thereby undercutting Carney’s monopoly.  The climax of the first part of the movie (the first movie?) involves whether the army officer will sign Carney’s proffered contract before Lady Sarah rides into town with the cattle. 

Unfortunately, the army officer does sign the contract before Lady Sarah arrives.  But then the officer tells Lady Sarah that the contract is only binding upon delivery of the cattle to the ship.  A race then ensues to load the cattle first.  Who knew that the UCC could be so much fun?

So, there you have it.  The epic of Australia is really a movie about contract law.

[Miriam Cherry / Cross Posted at Concurring Opinions]

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