October 27, 2015
They had me at Liam Hemsworth with his shirt off, they had me because Hugo Weaving was in a movie, they had me for the chance to see Judy Davis on the big screen again and then I squealed like a tween at a Bieber concert because it has Kate Winslet, I just love everything about the woman. I will be front and centre when THE DRESSMAKER releases this Thur 29th October in Australia. Sadly I could not make the media screening for this so Kernel Emma hit it up and shares her thoughts below. THE DRESSMAKER is released from Universal Pictures Australia, is rated M and runs for 118mins. Enjoy Emma’s thoughts…….all the best…..JK.
Based on popular gothic novel of the same name, THE DRESSMAKER is a comedic drama directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse. Set in 1950’s Australia, the film has a quirky nature that is more reminiscent of theatre than film. Tilly Dunnage played by the incredibly talented Kate Winslet, steals the show as the dressmaking femme fatale. Dunnage, who returns to her hometown, bringing with her a sewing machine and a terrible curse is equal parts vindictive and hilarious. With an Australian cast that includles a rather fabulous Hugo Weaving as local Sergeant Farris and particuarly eccentic Judy Davis as Tilly’s mother Molly, audiences can rest assured this funny film is Aussie through and through. Critics will almost certainly be divided by the films wide genre span and particuarly dry comedic tone. It is however this tone that makes THE DRESSMAKER so bizzare and enjoyable and one which signals an interesting direction for local cinema.
THE DRESSMAKER opens with a wide spanning shot of the Australian agricultural landscape, one which quickly narrows its gaze to the rundown hick town of Dungatar. Audiences pretty quickly learn that the residents of Dungatar are just as hick and uncultured as its downtrodden façade. After leaving home at a young age and living the glamorous life as a dressmaker in Paris, Tilly Dunnage returns home seeking sweet revenge for the mysterious events of her youth. Stepping out of a cab with a ciggarette hanging from her mouth she announces “I’m back you bastards” and we know we are in for a treat. Unfolding like a murder mystery, it is only in the film’s final scenes that we are made fully aware of the events of Tilly’s past. Alongside seeking revenge, Tilly transforms the women of the town – each of whom debut their freshly made frocks and new found confidence. The male characters, in particular Teddy (Liam Hemsworth), are almost all transfixed by her feminine charm. Dunnage’s wild mother Molly is the supporting actress of the film and while she can barely remember what she had for breakfast, her mad demenour is hilarious. Similarly excellent is Barney played by Gyton Grantley (better known as Carl Moran from Underbelly) who brings back fond memories of a younger Leo in WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE. A special mention must also be made to Hugo Weaving whose character is so flamboyant and transfixed by fashion he is hilarious and provides a nice contrast to Hemsworth’s particularly blokey character.
What the film lacks in strong narrative, it makes up for in creative design. The costumes of THE DRESSMAKER as expected, are absolutely gorgeous and elegant. Costume designer Marion Boyce is the goddess behind the camera and the film is the perfect pairing for someone of her calibre. The film’s female talent shines through, in all creative capacities. Similarly excellent is the set design which looks like its straight out of a spaghetti western, successfully nodding to the genre. The comedic sense of entrapment felt by the residents of Dungatar is very cleverly emphasised by the set design. What Seth MacFarlane failed to achieve in A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST, is rectified in this film, which successfully uses very few locations and a faux set to achieve great comedy.
HE DRESSMAKER is a genre nightmare, with nods to western, comedy, drama and gothic horror. It situates itself as a parody of classsic westerns with a black comedic tone. In many ways this genre mash-up works and the film’s bold and quirky tone has funny results. One finds themselves laughing out loud, not knowing whether it’s due to the narrative or the films general obscurity. The plot is erratic and shifts in tone randomly, with implications for an unexpecting audience. There were several moments where I was sure the film was over and yet the story just kept on going. Personally, I thought it only added to the comedy and also seemed intential, I’m not sure if other audiences will feel the same.
Going into THE DRESSMAKER with very little background and an open mind made for an interesting experience. Whilst this isn’t a film I’d usually choose to watch, I was really impressed, particularly with the cinematography and cast. It is always refreshing to watch a local film that doesn’t fit the norm, particularly when the distributor is one of the majors. I really hope this film does well locally, there are so many clever Aussie’s behind the scenes who deserve it.
Kernel Emma is documentary mad and also loves foreign and arthouse movies! She is Salty’s honorary NZ writer.