Genre-busting Aussie comedy-drama The Dressmaker brings Rosalie Ham’s book to the screen; part farce, part tragedy, part revenge-Western, the ensemble cast excel in this surreal 50’s tale of a broken outback town; but it’s Kate Winslet (Divergent, A Little Chaos) who delivers the central winning performance as the gunslinger with a Singer sewing machine – a GunSinger?
With the brash Aussie brio of Strictly Ballroom and Muriel’s Wedding, The Dressmaker switches from comedy to tragedy to farce with some predicatble and not-so predictble twists.
In 1950s Australia, beautiful, talented dressmaker Myrtle ‘Tilly’ Dunnage returns to the tiny hometown from which she was expelled aged ten for allegedly killing a boy. Trained in London, Paris and Milan, Tilly is a fashion diva who sets about transforming the scandalised town with haute couture. Along the way comes reconciliation with her batty mother (the brilliant Judy Davis), and romance with charming sewer man Teddy (Liam Hemsworth – Mockingjay).
From her Spaghetti Western arrival, Tilly’s mission of discovery and revenge adds a dark layer to an otherwise frothy comedy of manners, where pretty well the whole cast play outrageous farce with their own personal tragedies underneath. Hugo Weaving (Cloud Atlas) is the closeted, camp policman; Sarah Snook (Predestination) the ugly duckling transfigured into a swan. The town matriarchs bicker and conspire. But the revenge Western is never far away, with the corrupt Councilman running the Town, a rival dressmaker drafted in for a sew-off and the embittered school-mistress hiding secrets of Tilly’s past.
Revenge takes many forms, but it still comes as a surprise when we lose some key characters to misadventure and one shocking homicide.
If you can imagine High Plains Drifter crossed with Priscila, Queen of the Desert and that idea appeals to you, don’t be put off by the hats, frocks and high heels. There’s so much more to The Dressmaker than that. RC
The Dressmaker, 2015
Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse
Writer: Jocelyn Moorhouse, Rosalie Ham
Cast: Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving, Judy Davis, Sarah Snook