A stitch above the rest
THE DRESSMAKER (M)
Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse (Proof) Starring: Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Hugo Weaving, Liam Hemsworth, Sarah Snook, Shane Jacobson, Alison Whyte, Rebecca Gibney. Verdict: Finding herself, between a frock and a hard place. SEDUCTIVE fashion is a destructive weapon in the proudly unconventional, yet highly entertaining new Australian film The Dressmaker.
Based on the 2000 novel by Rosalie Ham, a frenetic combo of light comedy and manic drama connects and pleases with deceptively dexterous ease.
Kate Winslet and a strong local ensemble cast work wonders with a defiantly odd story of a seamstress whose beautiful designer outfits take down her ugly hometown.
The year is 1951, and Tilly Dunnage (Winslet) has returned from Europe – and a long spell of learning how to craft fine couture – to finally even the score with a rustic rural hamlet named Dungatar.
However, before Tilly can exact her revenge, she must first remember exactly why she hates this very small community of even smaller minds with such a passion.
While Dungatar might be a tiny mark on the map, it is a huge (and strange) world unto itself. If Tilly is ever going to find out the truth, she had better be prepared for a long and painful search.
The only two people she still truly knows in Dungatar may not prove to be of much assistance.
Tilly’s elderly mother Molly (Judy Davis) is widely regarded as a total madwoman of several decades’ standing. She professes to not even recognise Tilly when she first casts eyes on her.
Then there’s the local policeman Farrat (Hugo Weaving), who reluctantly upheld the letter of the law when Tilly was banished from Dungatar all those years ago.
A hell of a lot of material has been fitted into a very tight space here and the entire production never fails to impress. Not only for staying restlessly ambitious throughout, but relatively cohesive as well.
In addition to the inspired direction of Jocelyn Moorhouse, The Dressmaker draws ably on the united effort of an appreciably committed cast.
Though unfair to isolate any names in such a quality line-up, it cannot be denied most viewers will walk away singing the praises of Davis (openly channeling the late, great Sheila Florance, aka Lizzie from TV’s Prisoner) and Hugo Weaving (subtly harking back to his Priscilla days).
Both actors steal away with the movie as they please, but are always careful to hand it back to Winslet, who handles a demanding character very ably indeed.
Though prone to many a sudden mood swing that can often (albeit briefly) threaten to undo much of its good work, The Dressmaker never loses its thread when it counts.