"So egregiously bad it’s often compelling": Baz Luhrman's new Hulu show is splitting critics

Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman in Faraway Downs
(Image credit: Hulu / 20th Television)

We knew Baz Luhrman's Faraway Downs, which has just arrived on Hulu, was going to be divisive: the show is an edited version of Lurhman's least popular film, Australia, recut into a series of six episodes with stacks of new footage. The movie attracted its fair share of critical brickbats, and now the show is doing the same.

Let's start with the positives, though. RogerEbert.com praised the way the movie's style, saying it "simply looks better than most modern TV", while the San Francisco Chronicle offered a nuanced take: "This is old-fashioned storytelling, with all the strengths and weaknesses that term implies. Luhrmann is a showman who revels in his own extravagance. Sometimes you’re in the mood for that." But such voices are far from the being dominant. 

What are the negative reviews of Faraway Downs saying?

Writing in Australian paper The Age, Kylie Northover gives the show a grudging two and a half stars. The romance between Jackman and Kidman is "hackneyed" with a particularly wooden performance by Kidman, and "the acting is so egregiously bad it’s often compelling." And while Luhrman's attempts to highlight the story of the Stolen Generation are well intentioned, that storyline "remains somewhat superficial".

The Guardian's Phil Harrison isn't a fan either, giving the show just one star. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman play "two of the worst characters ever" and the series "is as vast and empty as the country it explores." The show is "clumsy, confused, borderline exploitative and totally lacking a good story."

Variety's Aramide Tinubu doesn't so much give the show both barrels as shoot it repeatedly, cut it into pieces, wallop the pieces with a shovel and then shoot each of the pieces again just to be safe: "If Luhrmann sought to make the Australian version of Gone With the Wind, containing all of the paternalism, magical Negros and clichés that beset the majority of Hollywood flicks during the Golden Age, Faraway Downs would be considered an accomplishment" and the show "does little to shift the series away from pure spectacle, where white folks are favored and people of color are sacrificed." 

So, it may not make its way into our list of the best Hulu shows, but it certainly isn't getting only negative reviews – at the time of writing, it's at about 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. If you'd like to find out for yourself, Faraway Downs is streaming now on Hulu in the US, and Disney Plus worldwide.

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.