A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Jocelyn Moorhouse
Produced By: Sue Maslin
Written By: Jocelyn Moorhouse, P.J. Hogan
Starring: Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving
Running Time: 118 Minutes
Cinema has the ability to naturally represent a culture, past, present or future, fictitious or factual in any way shape or form. Australian films have always seemed to reflect a culture that is their own, rarely breaking out of the backyard and exploring something that is not close to the typical Aussie story.
Another prime example of an Australian story is that of The Dressmaker, an adaptation of the 2000 Rosalie Ham novel of the same name that appears to have transitioned seamlessly to the big screen.
Needless to say, the subject matter lends itself exceptionally to film. Where the novel would paint an unspeakable picture within the mind of the reader, the on-screen visuals say more than enough.
With extensions and exaggerations upon real life influences for Ham, The Dressmaker, with it’s eccentricities and fluctuating tone will undoubtedly divide audiences, however there is a lot to love within the story, particularly for those who can relate.
The Dressmaker tells the story of Myrtle ‘Tilly’ Dunnage (Kate Winslet) returning to her home town of Dungatar several years after being accused of murder. Armed with a Singer sewing machine and a desire to clear her name, Tilly revisits the isolated, dry and unchanged town to be greeted with glaring and begrudging eyes.
With confidence, chic and a sense of menace in her stride, Myrtle boldly re-enters the town from which she was savagely exiled and attempts to right the wrongs of yesteryear.
Littered with Australian talent from both the world of cinema and television, The Dressmaker is able to exhibit its cast to the best of their abilities, as every member appears to have been meticulously hand picked to play their part. Hugo Weaving reminisces about the days of Priscilla as he plays a flowery crossdressing policeman, Predestination’s Sarah Snook comfortably undertakes a sympathetic supporting role, whilst efforts from Gyton Grantley, Shane Bourne, Barry Otto, Rebecca Gibney, Shane Jacobson and Liam Hemsworth add various peculiarities to the remaining oddball townsfolk.
The Dressmaker, with its thematic smorgasbord frequently alternates between genres and styles, making for a fluctuating ride of humour, emotion and sheer outrageousness. An example of this can be found in the opening. Beginning like an Eastwood western, the poised and stark Tilly enters the dormant Dungatar, sleekly but heroically announcing her arrival. Through music, cinematography and superb delivery, the comedic beats are hit without fail, offering a blend of slapstick, one-liners and witty remarks.
The balance of humour and maturity is handled very well within the film, predominantly seen through the masterful, show stealing efforts of Judy Davis (pictured above). Playing Tilly’s mother ‘Mad’ Molly Dunnage, Davis undertakes a highly challenging role that is physically and emotionally demanding and succeeds admirably in an Academy Award worthy supporting performance.
A left of centre tale about a left of centre community, The Dressmaker is stylish, clear-cut and tightly woven picture that appears to have done justice to the source material. Blending various genres and tones to create a greater sense of history and growth, the storytelling aspects within the film are indicative of a fantastic piece of literature to draw from.
A delightfully mixed cast and a keen eye for comedic timing, The Dressmaker is a reminder of how powerful homegrown storytelling can be. The film is worth the watch purely for its closing line: undoubtedly the years best.