October 29, 2015
Running time: 118m
Classification: M (Mature themes, violence, coarse language and sexual references)
Release date: 29/10/15
Cost: $0.00 (AFI member screening)
Rating: 10/10 (ME 5/5, DP 5/5)
It’s 1951 and Myrtle ‘Tilly’ Dunnage (Kate Winslet with a flawless Australian accent) returns from Paris to Dungatar, the remote Australian town she left many years earlier, to uncover the secrets behind her departure. Armed with her trusty Singer she is reunited with her mother ‘Mad’ Molly (Judy Davis) and the eccentric pair soon get tongues wagging across the small town. Teddy McSwiney (Liam Hemsworth) and local policeman Horatio Farrat (Hugo Weaving) are also on the outer for very different reasons, but it’s Tilly’s flair for fashion that brings the women clambering to her door in pursuit of one of her fetching creations. But as the past begins to resurface, Tilly’s mind turns to revenge.
Based on the novel by Rosalie Ham, The Dressmaker is cinematic perfection directed by Jocelyn Moorehouse. The ensemble is a who’s-who of Australian actors (Julia Blake, Rebecca Gibney, Shane Bourne, Alison Whyte, Shane Jacobson, Sarah Snook, Barry Otto, Gyton Grantley to name just a few) who bring life to the desolate (and apparently fictional) Dungatar. The production design is flawless and the bleakness of the town and its surroundings provide the perfect backdrop for costumes that are delightfully outrageous. It’s gothic meets haute couture with a look that can only be truly appreciated on a big screen. There is nothing subtle about the stark contrast between ugly and beautiful and it creates moments of delight as the film deliberately and successfully slips its stiletto-heeled toe into the surreal.
Such a large cast of quirky characters has the potential to make for a confusing plot, yet the clarity of the writing and the strength of the performances keeps everything under control. There are moments of humour, tenderness, romance and tragedy in a story as epic as the landscape in which its set. Not only is this clearly the best Australian film for 2015, it’s possibly the best film of the year and worthy of success at the upcoming AACTA Awards. Highly recommended. (ME/DP)