The Dressmaker is a 2015 drama directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, starring beautiful and talented Kate Winslet (widely known for Titanic, Revolutionary Road, Finding Neverland and many more) and young Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games, The Last Song), as well as Hugo Weaving, great Judy Davis and Sarah Snook. The story is based on the homonymous novel by Rosalie Ham.
What to expect from a middle-of-nowhere Australian town in the ‘50s
The plot of the movie sees Mirtle “Tilly” Dunnage (Kate Winslet), who is a strong woman previously sent away from her birth town for unclear reasons, making an epic return to Dungatar, in rural Australia. It’s clear from the start the far-fetched local population does not like her in the least, going as far as judging her to be “cursed”. Even her mother “Mad Molly” Dunnage (Judy Davis), who is also not one of the city’s most popular presences, seems to be at odds with Tilly.
What’s for sure is that we have at least one person who really does not seem to care in the least for the rumours about our protagonist: the exception is made by Teddy McSwiney (Liam Hemsworth), who is swept right off his feet by the unusual presence of Tilly, so different from the rest of the girls in Dungatar. Her unfortunate forced banishment at a young age, while being traumatic for herself and her mother, has given Tilly the chance to travel and make incredible experiences in a world she loves dearly: fashion.
Now that she’s back in town, her sophisticated and unique style causes a bit of a ruckus among the local women, who are ready to run over each other to get a taste of real class. Tilly seems to have the power to transform common and plain girls into works of art, bursting with self-confidence. The change is quite heady for some of them. Even so, most of the townspeople still don’t like the Dunnage women, and are more than ready to come up with a range of solutions to run a dent into Tilly’s new popularity and career… But our stylist is not one who’ll just bend her head in defeat, rather she seems to be ready to finally discover whether she is deserving of the hatred of her town and get revenge for all the wrongdoings she had to go through.
The good and the bad
Let’s start with the positive aspects: the actors are talented and the chemistry among them is sound. I especially appreciated the emotional mother-daughter bond portrayed by Winslet and Davis, which changes drastically during the story in a bizarre but realistic way. It’s not the usual close parental relationship, and we like it because of this. The romantic relationship between Tilly and Teddy also gives us some chills – both because they make for an extremely attractive couple and because of the peculiar personalities of the two.
Another interesting character can be found in Sergeant Farrat (Hugo Weaving), who is very hard to dislike and gifts us with a couple chuckles during the story. The whole cast is generally talented and relies beautifully the unusual characters of the plot, that for some reason or another all have their own quirkiness or are downright clinically insane.
A special point should be made for the settings and the talent displayed by whoever worked with cameras and photography – the ambience was dramatic (the whole movie was actually shot in Australia), the scenery peculiar and perfectly suited for the plot. Great shots and angles. Even the soundtrack was on point (composed by David Hirschfelder).
So what critics can we make against this movie? Well, it sure isn’t a life-changing story, but we have to admit that it’s not like they tried to sell it to us as one. It’s a relatively light drama, with quite a few dark moments mixed with hilarious and unrealistic scenes, ideal for a nice night out when you don’t feel like putting too much effort in following a complicated narrative. A couple downsides I have to point out are the mysterious disappearances of a couple characters, whose fate remains unknown to us at the end of the film, leaving me slightly disappointed and perplexed. But all in all, the story is good and enjoyable, not to say that if you appreciate fashion the way I do… that alone should be a huge point in favour of seeing this movie. The seductiveness of the clothes, even if in a completely different style, almost rivals the one of the great The Devil Wars Prada. The elegance and quality of the costumes might be one of the selling points of the film – my most sincere congrats to all the costume designers.
If you want to see a light-hearted but still dramatic, unusual movie for a relaxing night alone or in company, The Dressmaker sure is worthy of being taken into consideration. It will make you laugh, it will make you sad, it will show you a way of life completely different from what you’re used to, thanks to the arrangement of portrayals of unique characters in a strange story. Give it a try – you won’t be disappointed.
3.5/5 – Recommended