A glamorous woman returns to her small town in rural Australia. With her sewing machine and haute couture style, she transforms the women and exacts sweet revenge on those who did her wrong.A glamorous woman returns to her small town in rural Australia. With her sewing machine and haute couture style, she transforms the women and exacts sweet revenge on those who did her wrong.A glamorous woman returns to her small town in rural Australia. With her sewing machine and haute couture style, she transforms the women and exacts sweet revenge on those who did her wrong.
As I write this review, the film has not yet opened nationwide in Australia; but if the preview audience I attended was any indication, this film will be enjoyed by local filmgoers, but will it find a mainstream audience? I somehow doubt it. It is anarchic; indulgent, broad, implausible and loads of fun!! I enjoyed most of its 2 hour running time; but the final quarter did feel clumsy with a little too much plot shoehorned in; giving it a chaotic and lurching quality. Early on I sat wondering how this movie will fit into the already idiosyncratic reputation that Aussie films have; both at home and on the world screens. 'The Dressmaker' is ultimately going to be its own genre. As an adaptation from the novel of the same name; there are so many characters to depict and follow; and part of the chaos was the litany of quirkily filmed sequences with a who's who of local talent. This is easily the best cast ever assembled for an Australian feature; from stand up comedians to TV icons, to stage and screen legends; and new talent.
Perhaps it will be the star lineup that will lure filmgoers into the cinema for this movie. Judy Davis, one of our most celebrated actors, virtually steals the movie from the British import, the amazing Kate Winslet. Davis is in top form here, showing a screwball comedic side; rarely seen in her stellar career thus far; perhaps only glimpsed in the Woody Allen films she has appeared in. With the blackened teeth; the haggard make up and hobo costuming, Judy is a riot as the mother to the story's protagonist. If Ms Davis doesn't get the AACTA for Supporting Actress, I'll be very surprised. And if the movie gets the right marketing, perhaps that elusive Oscar for one of the great unrewarded screen stars. The teaming of Judy with Kate Winslet works well; there are some riotous moments and tender ones too; which give the film not only respite from the breakneck speed but some gravitas. Liam Hemsworth is suitably the movie matinée idol; with his piercing blue eyes, his tall, muscular frame and that true blue Aussie drawl. Sarah Snook shows once again why she is the lady in waiting for the big time, and is racking up an impressive list of screen credits. There are so many great actors here: Sacha Horler, Barry Otto, Julia Blake, Genevieve Lemon, Rebecca Gibney, literally just naming a few, and perhaps best of all, a cross dressing Hugo Weaving, showing that there is nothing this great actor cannot play, and play admirably.
The film is beautifully filmed and designed, and the strange world of this quaint little town in the middle of nowhere is perfectly captured and lovingly presented. So what are the criticisms? I was fine with the morphing of black comedy, western, revenge, love story motifs and styles; but I struggled a little with the matching of Kate Winslet, who at nearly 40 is way too old to have been a contemporary of the characters played here by Snook, Hemsworth et al. Winslet is nearer the age of the actors playing the parents of her and her contemporaries - Alison Whyte and Rebecca Gibney. As gorgeous and brilliant in the role as she is, it does seem as if the film, which was possibly funded and built around Winslet, has forgotten about this age difference. At 25, Liam Hemsworth, and Sarah Snook at 27 simply don't look right in the context of the main characters return after 20 years. That said, i mostly ignored this, and just enjoyed this caper movie for what it is.
In reading reviews of the movie from overseas, and seeing the vitriol targeting the movie's 'mish mash' and 'mess', I reflected on which other films or filmmakers 'The Dressmaker' was reminiscent of. Wes Anderson's 'Grand Budapest Hotel' sprung to mind as well as the work of Joel and Ethan Coen and Quentin Tarantino. All of these storytellers dabble in an array of genres, rendering them difficult to categorize, whilst still engendering praise and an audience. Anderson's recent multi Oscar win, had a glorious cast, a beautiful design, and a similarly caper like quality: at times just silly, but handsome to watch and enjoyable in the moment, and arty for sure, but hardly earth shattering or deep and meaningful. I hope that Australian critics and audiences alike get behind 'The Dressmaker' as it is a caper movie; I don't think it believes it is making a weighty, earnest Oscar bait movie, but a roller-coaster of a cinematic kind; funny, biting, gauche, heightened,tense and raucuous; and at the end of the day, very very entertaining.
- Oct 6, 2015