1950s were not short of long, frill frocks and traditional white gloves but to think that The Dressmaker only has that on offering is the biggest understatement. After over a decade ago since she directed her last film, Jocelyn Moorhouse brings the film adaptation to life with themes such as love, revenge and action on screen with female oscar-winning Kate Winslet taking on the lead role as Tilly. Based on the same novel written by Rosalie Ham, Moorhouse captures a comedic sense of humour in this story with a harsh lesson.
The story follows Tilly, who decides to come back to her hometown Dungatar to pay a visit to her ill mother, Molly (Judy Davis). With its unwelcoming atmosphere and the gossip that comes around in this small town, the film is set in the outskirts of an outback location. As Tilly makes her visit, the townspeople all spite her because they have been accusing her for years that she killed Stewart Pettyman as a child; however, they do not know the backstory that he was actually a bully towards her during the time she was at school.
As the film progresses, Molly and Tilly’s relationship doesn’t start smoothly but they eventually share a mother and daughter bond that is simply unbreakable. With her sophisticated ways and making her use of talent as a dressmaker, Tilly begins to show off her gorgeous frocks as a way to tease the town that she’s back and all the other women admire her self-confidence made through her impeccable fashion sense. Slowly, the women come towards her and pay her to make dresses, and realise that she might not be a bad person after all.
Local heartthrob, Teddy, (Liam Hemsworth) is a character that falls in love with Tilly and believes that she is innocent of her past and despite what she tells him, his persistence is as gorgeous as he looks. With the epic transformations of the townspeople, what they don’t realise is that Tilly is back for revenge for those that have made false accusations of her past. The twists and turns of the plot leave you astounded by the ridicule that happens in the film yet this doesn’t make you stop watching either way. The glue that ties in the film is that revenge is sickly sweet and this is thoroughly shown well throughout its course.
The acting in the film is flawless and Kate Winslet did an incredible job playing her character as Tilly. The couture fashion give the film aesthetics and despite the setting being in the outback, The Dressmaker makes it appealing for audiences (especially women) to appreciate the amount of effort placed towards how beautifully appealing the costume design was. Despite the drama-ridden elements in the film, there’s light-hearted parts to the movie. As an audience member, you pretty much engage in the ridicule that happens in The Dressmaker, making it hard to remove your eyes from the screen. However, because of the nature of the film, the plot seemed to drag on more than it should have with some instances where the events that did happen, inhibited the potential this film had to flourish even more.
Although the movie was quite lengthy in time. Moorhouse should be commended for her efforts in writing the script with her husband, P.J Hogan. The film had some humourous elements that did shine with characters like Gertrude aka Trudy (Sarah Snook) took on quite a transformation as soon as she wore a dress creation by Tilly. Not to mention the secret cross-dresser, Sergeant Horatio Farrat (Hugo Weaving), who’s the town’s only police officer, with Weaving playing his role magnificently. It’s clear that Moorhouse has a strong passion for themes she does believe in and this comes off strongly in the film.
The Dressmaker made for an entertaining watch. Many ridiculous things happen but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have scenes that were worth sticking around for. It’s a story about revenge which makes the whole plot enticing. Tilly is something all women aspire to be: powerful, elegant and smart and it’s safe to say, Winslet had a glamouring authenticity that made her shine in the role. It’s a refreshing film to see a female protagonist live by the mantra: what goes around comes around.
The Dressmaker is out now in all Australian cinemas