Film, OldVenue

Review: The Dressmaker

With stunning cinematography (Donald McAlpine) and the sheer contrast between femme fatale, Tilly Dunnage, and the dusty, rural Austalian town; The Dressmaker is a must-see gem within this season of female led films. Between The Lady in the Van and Carol it may seem outdated or generic but be assured that it is far from what it seems on the surface.

The Dressmaker is an old time, slightly dark, revenge-based drama with the backdrop of a spaghetti western. Set in 1951 in the small, unknown and infinitely dusty town of Dungatar, Australia, it depicts the story of Myrtle ‘Tilly’ Dunnage (Kate Winslet), an haute couture dressmaker, as she revisits her home town. Dunnage’s discovery that her own mother doesn’t remember her, the townspeople believe she is a murderer, and that her quiet hometown is home to none other than a shirtless Liam Hemsworth.

The film’s ability to seamlessly traverse several different genres without losing pace or interest is a credit to director Jocelyn Moorhouse (Proof, 1991). The plot, albeit at first seemingly predictable, takes unsuspected turns and brings tears to your eyes, along with throwing in some pretty appalling did-that-really-just-happen moments.

Winslet is truly stunning in her portrayal of this strong, deviously sexy woman. Winning favour in the town by creating haute couture dresses for the residents (worthy of best costume at the Oscars), this inspires particularly amusing scenes of ladies in rural Australia prancing around in couture gowns, looking like an advert for Vogue. Though the character of Tilly becomes a little weakened by the romantic interest Teddy (Liam Hemsworth) she thoroughly makes up for it with the beautifully humorous and touching relationship with her mother, Molly Dunnage (Judy Davis). Davis’ performance surpasses all as the batty old hag at the top of the hill, providing comic relief and dry Australian wit. Another actor to take particular note of is Gyton Grantley playing Teddy’s brother. The book (by Rosaline Ham), to which the film is based on, states that Barney has a mental disability, which Grantley performs with dignity and a playfulness that is heart-breaking and lovable.

However, some of the other characters, particularly the townsfolk, could have been given a little more dimension. There is a feeling that Liam Hemsworth is the perfect love interest and not much else, which makes the romance a little generic. For instance, Gertrude ‘Trudy’ Pratt and Beulah Harridiene could have had more character depth. However, it is possible that this was a deliberate decision by Moorhouse to make them even more shallow, which did fit with the story.

Is it worth watching?


+ Unpredictable
+ Clever camerawork
+ Emotive

As the director herself proclaimed, it’s like Clint Eastwood with a sewing machine. So put on your best red lipstick guys and girls, this is not a film you want to miss.Watch the trailer for The Dressmaker
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Alice Ballard

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August 2022
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