Published on October 28th, 2015 | by seenheard


Review: The Dress Maker

The Dressmaker“I’m back, you bastards,” sneers Tilly Dunnage (Winslet), formerly Myrtle, as she steps off the train, sets her singer down, and looks upon the sandy dust bowl that is Dungatar, her hometown.

It’s been a long, long time since I saw a movie that engrossed me from start to finish. And even longer since I went out of my way to tell people about a movie I saw.

That was until last night when I saw ‘The Dressmaker’ the title is come what deceptive, luring me in to what I thought would be a ‘chick flick’ and while it undoubtedly had those girly elements of frocks and feathers, it had that and so much more.

Kate Winslet stars as couturier (dressmaker to us lamens) and alleged murderess Tilly Dunnage, who returns home to the remove country town of Dungatar. Her estranged mother ‘Mad Molly’ (Judy Davis) has remained in there since Tilly was sent away as a child, for purportedly murdering a schoolboy named Stewart.

With an Australian supporting cast like no other, including a cross dressing Hugo Weaving, it’s a who’s who of Australian talent including Rebecca Gibney, Shane Jacobson, Barry Otto and of course, Liam Hemsworth who plays the token love interest and link to the past.

A somewhat deranged tale of intrigue that thrusts film maker Jocelyn Moorhouse back into the director’s chair after a nearly 20-year hiatus.

This thriller-comedy-horror-dark-mystery saga serves up a mixed bag of fabric ultimately forming a quilt of madness.

Judy Davis is the foul mouthed and tempered mother who sits atop a hill in her derelict home with only empty bottles a possum for company, who is less than welcoming to Tilly but gradually accepts her return in her own wicked yet complex manner. A role she does perfectly, a hissing and bigger hag flirting with irrationality. Her quick wit and mannerisms are an eccentric addition to the storyline.

Some of the films best scenes are the mother daughter relationship between Davis and Winslet, and the fumbling romance with Teddy (Hemsworth) who’s eyes and physique does all the alluring needed.

Tily (Winslet), seemingly caught up in her curse, does her best to make amends and get to the bottom of her sordid murderous past using her singer to make peace with the town folk whilst doing her best to remain unattached.

Weaving channels his Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert flair as the in the closet Police sergeant who longs for Tilly’s wardrobe.

The amalgamation of so many storylines, characters and twists, it’s amazing how well it comes together as a whole. From scene to scene, the unpredictable nature can feel somewhat disjointed at times, right up to and including the movies most jarring (and genuinely lump-in-your-throat upsetting) death scene, one of many ‘out of nowhere’ merciless culls of lead characters. One scene did however make the audience uncomfortable, Shane Bourne having drugged his wife, then seems to take advantage of her – which sadly came across as rape and the scene itself added no value to the movie.

The DressmakerWhat appears to be a small country town, has a deep dark underlying ruthlessness to rival the big city streets, and the characters all stitch together seamlessly, with relationships being hemmed together with the loosest of stitches.

A movie that will see you both laugh and potentially cry at times with the odd gasp and ‘didn’t see that coming’, and also appreciate that Australian humour and wit like only an Aussie can. It’s just good fun, especially for those who love a good movie makeover. Costume designers Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson have nailed it when it comes to glamour and just how much a good frock can make a world of difference.

A definite win for Australian film and Morehouse, The Dressmaker delivers, and then some.

4/5 in cinemas now


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