October 12, 2015
Judy Davis, the doyenne of Australian actresses, is the star of a new film `The Dressmaker` which opens in Adelaide on Friday, also starring Kate Winslet.
Set in the 1950s, The Dressmaker is a bittersweet comedy about a glamorous young woman who returns, after many years in Europe, to her small home town in rural Australia in order to right some wrongs from the past.
When Tilly (played by Kate Winslet) comes home, she not only reconciles with her ailing mother Molly (played by Judy Davis) but, with her sewing machine, and haute couture style, she transforms the women of the town in such a way that she gets sweet revenge on those who did her wrong. She also falls unexpectedly in love, which leads to her greatest loss and her most destructive deed.
Written and directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse and based on the best-selling novel by Rosalie Ham, The Dressmaker brings together a highly acclaimed cast and film-making team.
There is a tendency for many Australians to denigrate their own film industry despite many fine productions like the new wave The Killing of Angel Street and Heatwave both made in 1981 and based on the disappearance of green activist Juanita Nielsen. Think of the atmospheric Summerfield starring Nick Tate and Elizabeth Alexander and classics like Wake in Fright and Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Everyone has heard of Judy Garland but the name Judy Davis was unfamiliar to the many young professional Australians that I spoke to at a memorial service for Gough Whitlam in London last December. The name Al Capone is known to all but what about Abe Saffron AKA `Mr Sin` the Sydney gangster who was the Oz equivalent of old Scarface? The reason of course is the gigantic publicity machine that is Hollywood.
Judy Davis was born to a middle class Catholic family in Perth in 1955. After a strict convent school upbringing, she passed on university and toured Asia in a rock band before embarking on a theatrical vocation.
Davis has appeared in over 40 films in her long career with her pale complexion contrasting with her mane of red hair and trademark slash of red lipstick.
Davis came to prominence as Sybylla Melvyn in the 1979 film version of the Miles Franklin novel My Brilliant Career. Her early career was in her native Australia with films such as 1981’s Heatwave, based on the Juanita Nielsen case, Winter of Our Dreams in the same year when she played a heroin addicted prostitute, and 1987’sHigh Tide about a mother-daughter bond. Her performances as strippers, bomb throwing activists and prostitutes may have dismayed the sisters who educated her.
Judy Davis went on to star in the US in films such as Alice and Barton Fink. She was even nominated for an Oscar for her role David Lean’s A Passage to India. Her best known American role, though, is probably that of Judy Garland in 2001’s Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows.
The Dressmaker also stars 2009 Oscar winner Kate Winslet. There also are numerous Aussie stalwarts, including Hugo Weaving, Liam Hemsworth and Susan Snook. Genevieve Lemon, who appeared in over 70 episodes of Prisoner, is there as is New Zealand born Rebecca Gibney who many will remember from Australian TV shows like Packed to the Rafters and The Flying Doctors.
You can dress up for the red carpet showing of The Dressmaker at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Adelaide on Friday 16th October during the Adelaide Film Festival 2015 (15 October 2015 – 25 October 2015).
If you’re in the UK, as I am, you’ll have to wait until late October/early November. The film’s theatrical release in the US is expected to be early December.
I’m looking forward to seeing it and hope Judy Davis gets a long overdue Oscar!
Check out The Dressmaker website