"Some will love it and others will find it just a little too over the top."
"I'm back, you bastards." So goes the opening line of this memorable film as it's drawled out of Kate Winslet's red-lipsticked mouth in her best Australian accent. The glamorous Winslet plays the glamorous Tilly, who's returned to Dungatar after 15 years away. One of the first things she asks her decrepit mother, 'Mad Molly', is if she committed a murder all those years ago.
The Dressmaker is an adaptation of Rosalie Ham's gothic novel, with the script co-written by director Jocelyn Moorhouse and her regular collaborator and life partner, PJ Hogan. Subtlety is not a quality in supply as the overblown characters in this 1950s microcosm often border on caricature. Even so, at its heart the story is sometimes moving, and despite its numerous hilarious moments — often courtesy of Judy Davis's brilliant comic take on Mad Molly — touches on serious issues like poisonous patriarchy and spousal abuse.
The cast is a roll call of Australian acting names, with Hugo Weaving as a cross-dressing cop, Sarah Snook, Alison White, Sacha Horler, Shane Bourne, Shane Jacobson, Barry Otto and many more to round out the action — all with a heightened sense of reality. In contrast, Liam Hemsworth's naturalistic performance almost belongs in a completely different film. Another character is the gorgeous frocks that the Paris-trained couturier Tilly runs up with her Singer sewing machine for the repressed women in the town.
This film is like a return to the Aussie films of 20 years ago. Some will love it and others will find it just a little too over the top.
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