The Dressmaker

WRITTEN BY: Jocelyn Moorhouse, P. J. Hogan
DIRECTED BY: Jocelyn Moorhouse
STARRING: Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving
RATING: 4 stars

Based on the novel by Rosalie Ham, The Dressmaker centres on Mrtyle “Tilly” Dunnage (Kate Winslet), who was suspiciously sent away from her hometown as a young girl after the death of a boy. Tilly returns to the rural town to see her aging mother Molly (Judy Davis), but the townsfolk are not happy about her return. It seems everyone thinks Tilly is a murderer and only childhood friend Teddy McSwiney (Liam Hemsworth) wants anything to do with her. So, Tilly uses her dressmaking skills to make outfits for the local women in the hopes of endearing herself to the community.

The Dressmaker is a spectacular dark comedy that is equally tragic, funny and weird. Director/co-writer Jocelyn Moorhouse cleverly weaves a variety of themes into the film including revenge, love, family dynamics and small town gossip. Go into the cinema with an open mind because the plot takes some unexpected turns. The fashion is central to the film and each dress Tilly creates for the women of the town are exquisite. Hugo Weaving also gets to wear some fabulously flamboyant costumes as the local policeman who has a secret lust for cross-dressing.

Winslet nails the Australian accent perfectly; there is not one slip-up. The only slight issue is the romance between Tilly and Teddy. An initial view of the trailer seems to depict a wonderful change to most on-screen love stories that pair older men with much younger women. However, while Winslet and Hemsworth look gorgeous together, their characters are supposed to be about the same age and unfortunately she looks too old next to him and the other young cast members. Nonetheless, their relationship adds some sweetness to the twisted tale. Davis also gives a stand-out performance, providing some memorable laughs, especially in Molly's flirtations with Teddy.

The Dressmaker is a unique film and one of the best Australian productions in years.