Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse
Based on the novel by Rosalie Ham
Starring Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Judy Davis, Hugo Weaving
Review by Jordan
The Dressmaker is Shakespeare told via the dusty outcrops of rural ‘50’s Australia.
When the well-travelled (nay, exiled) Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet) returns home to the insular outback town of Dungatar, she brings with her not only haute couture and the ability to entrance footballers like the song of the siren, but also the intent of a femme fatale, whose desire to uncover the mysteries of her tragic past is weighed down by her little-explored but obviously troubling (and bleakly amusing) childhood curse. Tilly’s relationship with her reclusive, alcoholic mother Molly (Judy Davis in an excellent performance) bears the scars of intimate lies and an innate desire to rectify them, and reluctant connection to rugged local Teddy (Hemsworth) shows a capacity to escape her emotional confides if only her aura of bad luck could be broken.
Macbeth, then, is the most suitable Shakespearian connection, and it’s fitting that its quoted as a foreshadowing of events to come.
Jocelyn Moorhouse (How to Make an American Quilt) directs with an emphasis on the outrageous, not the dramatic; a good idea and no doubt in sync with the mood of the source material. In absorbing the attitudes of the townspeople, the style of humour and the wit of the story itself, its striking just how Australian The Dressmaker is, which is a compliment, even if it mightn’t suit all tastes. There is a larrikin sensibility to it all, imbued with the bursts of violence that frequently punctuate films and television produced down-under; this is a morbid tale rich with an endeavour to juxtapose its darkest moments with a touch of fashion and hint of irony.
Kate Winslet is no stranger to Australia, having starred in Jane Campion’s Holy Smoke in 1999, and with her subtle accent and not-so-subtle appearance it’s hard to imagine the film without her. A decidedly unwashed and dentally-impaired Judy Davis is the next standout, with the rest of the supporting cast, minus Hugo Weaving’s remorseful Sergeant Farrat, fleshing out a community gleefully comparable to rubbish.
Only a drama when in the lead-up to a weird twist of fate or flashback to a forgotten past, The Dressmaker is wayward, a little eccentric but like the garments of Tilly Dunnage it’s handcrafted and fits just as intended. We’re all critics, and perhaps in a blunter fashion she’d suggest you can like it or loathe it.
3.5 grain silos out of 5