I fell in love with the provocative eccentricity of “The Dressmaker” quite early on. The film, based on the novel by Rosalie Ham, tells the story of larger-than-life Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet). Tilly was sent away as a child when she was accused of murdering a classmate in the schoolyard. After spending years working as a dressmaker in the finest fashion houses of Paris and Milan, Tilly returns home to her small village in the Australian outback to care for her erratic, slightly unhinged mother Molly (Judy Davis) and to face her demons.
Tilly begins sewing extravagant clothing for the locals to earn a little pocket change (it goes without saying that the costumes are absolutely stunning; the fabrics and the haute couture on display are guaranteed to make fashion lovers squeal with delight), and soon she finds herself in a whirlwind romance with local town hunk Teddy (Liam Hemsworth). When things in town began to turn a bit sour, Tilly sets her sights on revenge towards those who did her wrong as a child.
Yeah, there is a lot going on in this story and there’s plenty to keep audiences on their toes. The film is eccentric and weird (but in a good way) and is loaded with twists and surprises. The film starts out with each townsperson being briefly introduced, from the mentally and physically abusive town doctor (Barry Otto) to the fashion-obsessed police captain (Hugo Weaving, a true standout in a role he was born to play). Soon you’ll start to see that there’s an enormous amount of hostility, anger and depravity bubbling beneath the surface of everyone in town.
The film is more than a little quirky and offers a strange blend of genres, from comedy to drama to suspense to horror to romance, yet never settles on just one (making for one heck of a jarring viewing experience). There’s plenty of humor wrapped around a sometimes violent, often shocking tale of revenge. It’s a lively, unique concoction that’s never dull. The film teeters on the edge of camp but is played in all seriousness, which works. It’s the perfect example of bold, audacious Australian cinema.
This isn’t a movie for everyone but if you’d like to experience a couple of hours of charming strangeness, you should seek it out.
Matt was unavailable for review.