Kate Winslet proves she's still got it, even when cast against Liam Hemsworth
A zany, quirky film, The Dressmaker is set in 1950s provincial Australia, with Kate Winslet as a returning native wearing a Scarlet Letter, who comes home to set the record straight.At first glance, the film feels very theatrical. The setting is the Outback with every stereotypical, one-dimensional member of small-town society: the grocer, the chemist, the mayor, and the local policeman. Enter a long gone, but never forgotten product of the town, Myrtle (Winslet). A social pariah who has done very well for herself in European fashion, Myrtle comes back to set the record straight regarding the murder of boy during her youth.Myrtle, or Tilly as everyone calls her, has a true talent for fashion and soon everyone in Dungatar is a walking billboard for her talents with a needle and thread. On her journey to find out the truth about whether or not she was responsible for the death of former schoolmate, Tilly also deals with a slightly senile mother, Molly (Judy Davis) and a love interest, Teddy (Liam Hemsworth), more than a few years her junior.
Beautifully cinematic, there are loads of slo-mo, desaturated shots of Australia. The dirt between your toes and the oddity of couture in such a place juxtapose nicely with the internal struggle of Tilly, the infamous illegitimate daughter of ‘Mad Molly’. However, it has to be said, the genre of the film still remains unclear, as though even the filmmakers weren’t quite sure what they wanted the tone to be. That’s a fairly big box to miss ticking, and more clarity on that account could have helped to move along the narrative in a consistent manner.
That being said, there are some beautifully tender moments throughout, especially between Tilly and Molly and Tilly and Teddy. Unexpected developments and a degree of satisfaction at the ending round the film out, and the score keeps the tone fairly light, though the humour seems to miss its mark several times. The police sergeant (Hugo Weaving), for example, is a closet fashionista himself. Plenty of humour in that, but somehow, the urge to giggle at his remarks remains nonexistent. Pity really.
Although beautifully cinematic, the tone of the film remains unclear, as though the filmmakers aren't quite sure themselves.
Don’t expect a typical experience if you’re watching the film this weekend. It’s much better suited to the page or stage, but it is entertaining and touching. And I salute Moorhouse’s gutsy gamble to cast Hemsworth alongside Winslet without making it a massive deal. Kate’s still got it, and Hemsworth is not hard to look at, not to mention he holds his own acting-wise. More films could learn from this feminist casting approach to storytelling.
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