A stitch above the rest

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - WEEK IN MOVIES - Leigh Paatsch


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.

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