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The Dressmaker

Opening Date
28 Jan 2016
PG13 Some Coarse Language and Sexual References
119 mins
English with no subtitles
Comedy, Drama, Thriller
Jocelyn Moorhouse
Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving
The Dressmaker tells the story of the beautiful and talented Tilly Dunnage (Academy Award winner KATE WINSLET). After years working as a dressmaker in exclusive Parisian fashion houses, Tilly returns home to a town in the Australian outback to reconcile with her eccentric mother Molly (Academy Award nominee JUDY DAVIS). She also falls in love with the pure-hearted Teddy (LIAM HEMSWORTH), and armed with her sewing machine and haute couture style, Tilly transforms the women of the town, exacting sweet revenge on those who did her wrong.
By Jason Lin  28 Jan 2016
The Dressmaker does however provide moral food for thought that is fleshed out thematically by the wonderful onscreen ensemble performance remarkably led by Winslet.
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Opening with a vindictive upbeat score by David Hirschfelder that reminds one of an imminent Western showdown, Australian filmmaker Jocelyn Moorhouse’s The Dressmaker opens with a stylish premise as Kate Winslet’s chic character lights up a cigarette and announces her arrival in the middle of the night - “I’m back, you bastards”.
A fine and talented couturier who has mastered her craft in highly-regarded fashion cities of Paris and London returns to tend to unfinished business. Tilly Dunnage is back to upheave and unsettle the folks of Dungatar, the very people who have accused and convicted her of killing a certain boy when she was only ten.
She initially achieves this through flaunting her taste in fashion and craft in dressmaking with her exquisite dresses. This was well-noted when she managed to manipulate a game of rugby by alluring the gazes of the boys, one of whom is a bewitched Teddy McSwiney (Liam Hemsworth).
The first half of the film, based on Rosalie Ham’s similarly titled book, exhibits a fair amount of gorgeous dresses (costume design by Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson) and a very magnetic and seductive Winslet. Her dress sense is later replicated on many other envious ladies of Dungatar who desperately wanted to transform themselves into desirable objects of attraction.
This very craft of dressmaking, coupled with haute couture influences attained from her overseas stint, is a gifted skill of transforming and manipulating people. One that is verbally endorsed and encouraged by Dunnage’s mother – known as ‘Mad Molly’ (Judy Davis) by the town.
Like an onion that Moorhouse slowly peels off, The Dressmaker progressively reveals skeletons in closets to hint of a certain evil complexity at work behind the façade of Dungatar’s simplicity. It is uncomforting to witness hypocrisy in how one’s vanity can reverse one’s bigotry to embrace one’s enemies – the thin (or almost non-existential) boundary between love and hate.
How does one bear grudge and hatred against people who are naïvely wicked and/or wickedly naïve?
It is however difficult to attain people’s support that are often commanded by a single figure whom people look up to. This often results in eventual abuse of trust and power – the gradual breeding of opportunistic malicious contempt. Such is the case in Evan Pettyman (Shane Bourne), the town’s Councillor, whose despicable affairs (even of those towards his own kin) are gradually revealed.
In a place full of naïve people, the one-eye man is king of the land of blind people.
Hope is not all lost in the form of socially unacceptable characters such as the cross-dressing Sergeant Farrat (played by the impeccable Hugo Weaving) and the mentally-disabled Barney McSwiney (Gyton Grantley). An awkward irony.
With a debatable lack of credible reconciliation of various plots and characters for an uneven approach, The Dressmaker does however provide moral food for thought that is fleshed out thematically by the wonderful onscreen ensemble performance remarkably led by Winslet.
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