An Australian Classic.
'The Dressmaker' is not the type of film that instantly attracts me to the cinema. It's the wrong genre, (although this film is difficult to place) the wrong story and it creates the wrong type of atmosphere. Leave this to the women, I told myself and go and see something more.......you. How wrong I was, and how glad I was to jump out of my comfort zone. It was a good excuse to take my good old mum out and treat her to a midday-mid week 'flick' and some company with her son or that is what I told myself when I entered the theatre to find it filled with women and retirees excited to be out and about without the hording masses that congregate on weekends.
'The Dressmaker' has been dubbed as the return of Director Jocelyn Moorhouse to the chair since 1997 and she has delivered a film that will be remembered for some outstanding performances by Judy Davis, Hugo Weaving and Kate Winslet. I will agree to the statement that the film doesn't really fit into any particular mould but this is where it keeps the audience fixated to the screen. Just when you think the film is heading down a particular path, it turns sideways and takes a detour to its final destination. Some people might find this annoying and even film destroying but I believe this is a bit dramatic. 'The Dressmaker' holds a certain charm that never leaves it as it sways back and forth from one type of genre to the next. It can be billed as a black comedy but it does allow the audience to experience an array of emotions. At times you will find yourself laughing out loud and the next minute you will be gripped by the drama that is unfolding.
Based on the novel by Rosalie Ham, 'The Dressmaker' centres around Myrtle "Tilly" Dunnage (Kate Winslet) and her return to a small Australian country town in rural Victoria in 1951. Her departure years before were under controversial circumstances and the small rural community have not forgotten. She is everything the town isn't - sophisticated, stylish, experienced and worldly and she has come back for one reason.......to reek havoc on the people that so callously betrayed her all those years ago.
Kate Winslet rarely puts in a bad showing and her turn as Tilly Dunnage is made even more exceptional with a flawless Australian accent. The audience will forget that she is English as she seamlessly slides into the fabric of her surroundings not once slipping up when delivering her dialogue. Judy Davis is the star of the show as Tilly's mad mother, Molly Dunnage. Davis effortlessly steals every scene that she is in with outstanding engagement of a character that is just a little off centre. She will be recognised for this role with an AACTA and it is thoroughly deserving.
Hugo Weaving adds a superb presence as the cross dressing cop, Sergeant Farrat. His character grows on the audience with his eccentric colourful manner, bringing the best out in Weaving that gives this wonderful film an extra element of charm.
Liam Hemsworth is the eye candy for the ladies but is solid in a role that gets Davis and Winslet hot under their collar. He is your typical tall, blue-eyed country boy who is the apple of his mother's eye and does exactly what Moorhouse hired him to do......stand there and look pretty. Good onya Liam.
Joining the familiar talent is a whose who of Australian television that many international audiences wouldn't recognise but they give it that authentic Aussie feel. Could this be the breakout role for Sarah Snook? Gertrude Pratt is transformed by Tilly on screen only to turn on the unfortunate outsider when 'theories' are thrown around.
I can't see any reason why this film won't be enjoyed by the masses. It is Australian and it's dry wit may not appeal to foreign markets which would be a shame. The narrative is all over the place but don't be put off by its uncertainty. Dig a little deeper and you will be rewarded with some brilliant performances.