Film Review: The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker (2015)

Dir. Jocelyn Moorhousedressmaker.jpg

It's a Wednesday night, a 'Chicks at the Flicks' advance screening at George Street Event Cinema & I'm woefully underdressed. There are two stylishly garbed mannequins against a titled background for a photo-op the accompanying band creating this chic atmosphere. Oh, and we're also being served chocolate on a platter (#winning). This is all so incredibly fancy that I can't help but feel out of place. 

The only thing keeping this situation becoming increasingly awkward is the fact that I'm here on a mission. 
Which, funnily enough, is why Myrtle 'Tilly' Dunnage (Kate Winslet) returns to Dungatar. A mission that you have no doubt she will complete. Especially with a sharply dressed Kate Winslet, all dark colours, red lips and smart hat, glowering down the barrel. Her first line:

"I'm back you bastards." - Tilly Dunnage

There is no doubt in my mind that this is going to be one fun ride. And ultimately that's what this film is: fun. It is unabashedly Australian with it's quick witted, depreciative humour and the obscene lack of social etiquette (e.g Tilly kissing a half naked Teddy (Liam Hemsworth) in front of her mum). Of course this begs an enormous nod to the impeccable cast bringing the comedy to life. 

Headlining The Dressmaker is of course Kate Winslet, Hugo Weaving (Sergeant Farrat) & Liam Hemsworth, all big names and well known to both international and national audiences. But who really stole the show was Judy Davis playing Molly Dunnage, Tilly's mad mother; the town pariah. The chemistry between these two women was an absolute delight. Seeing them play their stubborn counterparts brought forth an entertaining spew of exchanges. The most surprising and endearing character would have to go to Sergeant Farrat, the flamboyant law enforcer whose opening dialogue consists of an unexpected knowledge of couture and proper care of leather products. 

But it is not all fun and games. You are put on a seesaw of comedy and drama throughout the film's entirety. Dark events of Tilly's past are quickly brought to your attention, the truth about her premature exile coming to light. But let's not spoil the film here. Surprisingly there is minimal emotional whiplash from the quick change of comedy to drama.   However despite that there are genuine moments of sadness, loss and despair. Whilst the soundtrack is beautiful it is at times too overpowering, it is in its absence that the drama is keenly felt.

At the end of the film, after the popcorn, drinks and laughter, you are left with a sense of triumph. Not only for this amazing piece of work proudly Australian but also for Tilly. The femme fatale dressmaker of Dungatar. For those going to watch this film, hold onto these words:

"Tilly Dunnage, is no longer cursed."


Bethany Pal

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