October 28, 2015
THE DRESSMAKER (M)
Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse (Proof)
Starring: Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Hugo Weaving, Liam Hemsworth, Sarah Snook, Shane Jacobson, Alison Whyte, Rebecca Gibney.
Between a frock and a hard place
SEDUCTIVE fashion is a destructive weapon in the proudly unconventional, yet highly entertaining new Australian film The Dressmaker.
Kate Winslet and a strong local ensemble cast work wonders with a defiantly odd story of a seamstress whose beautiful designer outfits take down an ugly town.
Based on the 2000 novel by Rosalie Ham, a frenetic combo of light comedy and manic drama connects with and pleases an audience with deceptively dexterous ease.
Though prone to many a sudden mood swing that can often (albeit briefly) threaten to undo much of its good work, The Dressmaker never loses its thread when it counts.
“I’m back, you bastards,” says Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet) to no one in particular as she surveys the hardscrabble hometown that both made her and broke her many years ago.
The year is 1951, and Tilly has returned from Europe — and a long spell of learning how to craft fine couture — to finally even the score with a rustic rural hamlet named Dungatar.
However, before Tilly can exact her revenge, she must first remember exactly why she hates this very small community of even smaller minds with such a passion.
Something happened when Tilly was 10 years of age, an incident that took the life of another child.
Tilly needs to know why it was she who took the blame for this mysterious tragedy. Once that is cleared up, only then can she move on to messing up those responsible.
The only two people she still truly knows in Dungatar may not prove to be of much assistance.
Tilly’s elderly mother Molly (Judy Davis) is widely regarded as a total madwoman of several decades’ standing. She professes to not even recognise Tilly when she first casts eyes on her.
Then there’s the local policeman Farrat (Hugo Weaving), who upheld the letter of the law when Tilly was banished from Dungatar all those years ago.
Though sympathetic to Tilly’s plight, Farrat has his own reasons for sticking with the popular version of events.
There is much more (thankfully, some will say) to The Dressmaker than Tilly simply going to war with a bunch of wackos.
A hell of a lot of material has been very effectively fitted into a very tight space here, and the entire production never fails to impress. Not only for staying restlessly ambitious throughout, but relatively cohesive as well.
In addition to the inspired direction of Jocelyn Moorhouse, The Dressmaker draws ably on the united effort of an appreciably committed cast.
Though unfair to isolate any names in such a quality line-up, it cannot be denied that most viewers will walk away from the experience singing the praises of Judy Davis (openly channelling the late, great Sheila Florence, aka Lizzie from TV’s Prisoner) and Hugo Weaving (subtly harking back to his Priscilla days).
Both actors steal away with the movie as they please, but are always careful to hand it back to Winslet, who handles a demanding character very ably indeed.