Posted Dec 08 2015

The Dressmaker - This Movie Rocks The Down Under Bits

Dir: Jocelyn Moorhouse

Starring Kate Winslett, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo ("Legally, i have to be in every Australian movie. EVER") Weaving

Set in the extremely rural Australia of the early 1950s, The Dressmaker is basically a blackly comic variation on a Clint Eastwood movie, with posh frocks standing in for The Man With No Name’s poncho. Winslett arrives in town with revenge on her mind, stepping off the train for all the world a female incarnation of Spencer Tracy in Bad Day at Black Rock. She carries golf tees in her holster, a Singer sewing machine never too far from her itchy trigger figure. For Winslett’s Tilly (nee Myrtle) has come back to this western town to find out why she was sent away in the first place, how much responsibility did she have in the death of a young boy.

Moorhouse’s hugely enjoyable film plays with all the standard-issue tropes of the western genre, amusing itself by subverting them. It never however slips into parody, more gentle prodding, as Tilly’s tale unfolds, more High Seams Sewer than High Plains Drifter. Winslett is fully in her element here, bringing glamour to the unglamorous, and justice to the small minds of those around her. She simply relishes the role and gives it her all, in some ways recalling her Oscar winning work in The Reader, in the way that Tilly struggles with her own feelings of being incomplete. She is met full on by the force of nature that is the great Judy Davis, who is all but guaranteed a Best Supporting nod and has every right to walk away with the little golden guy.

At a time where pay and age discrimination is an issue, it’s a delight to see Winslett who is not only undoubtedly earning more than her male co-stars, but is also considerably older than the male totty on show here. That said, said male totty Hemsworth is a helluva lot better here than anything The Hunger Games has shown him to be capable of. And Hugo Weaving, who contractually has to appear in every Australian movie until he dies, gets to have a lot of fun in a dress.

The Dressmaker (almost a distant cousin of Unforgiven) rides into town, wipes out the bad guys, then gets back on the train and rides off into the smouldering sunset. It’s doesn’t change the world, but for two hours it makes it a better place.


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