The Dressmaker

One of the highest grossing Australian movies and based on the 2000 book of the same name, The Dressmaker is a very quirky film about a woman returning to her childhood hometown in rural Australia to take revenge on those accusing her of a past wrongdoing. Played by the Academy Award-winning actress Kate Winslet, Myrtle ‘Tilly’ Dunnage unexpectedly appears in Dungatar 25 years after being sent away as a child, ostensibly to care for her mother Molly who is played by the acclaimed Australian actress Judy Davis. Her particularly ornery mother suffers from some sort of mental illness and still lives in a house in great disrepair. However, we soon learn that Tilly has an ulterior motive for leaving her world of being a high fashion dressmaker in Paris and returning to the town she despises. She was blamed for a local bully’s death when she was a young child and is now trying to figure out if she really was at fault. Creating stylish outfits that are out of place in the Australian Outback gets her in the good graces of the local women and the cross-dressing police officer played by Hugo Weaving. Personally not knowing what to expect, the movie starts out as an oddball dark comedy full of head-scratching shenanigans and truly out-there characters. However, as Tilly finds her place in town, the film abruptly swerves to becoming a romance when she falls in love with a local named Teddy, played by a hunky Liam Hemsworth. But, all of sudden, the plot veers course yet again as Tilly begins to discover the truth of what really happened when she was a child. It becomes more of a melodramatic revenge story in which she turns on the conniving townspeople and gives them their just deserts in the final climactic scenes. Since it is set in 1951, the filmmaker gives a good representation of the time and setting through the use of vintage elaborate costumes and references to Billie Holiday music. Like the story with its unusual tonal shifts, the outfits are paradoxically set against a dusty and unforgiving town in the middle of nowhere. Overall, I found the film to be weirdly intriguing with an undoubtedly talented cast, but, at times, I found it to suffer from a sort of multiple personality disorder in that it did not really feel like it knew what movie it wanted to be.

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