PLOT- Set in the 1950's, The Dressmaker, is the story of Myrtle Dunnage (Kate Winslet), a high-end fashion designer who has returned to her rural Australia hometown to exact revenge on those who have wrong her.
As a child, Myrtle was accused of murdering a schoolmate and sent away to boarding school. She was only ten years old and has vague memories of the murder, yet a majority of the citizens of the small town of Dungatar, believe in her guilt and find her return scandalous. Myrtle finds her mother, Molly ( Judy Davis), living in squalor, socially punished for being the town slut and mother of a murderer. Keeping her head held high, Myrtle sets out to understand the missing puzzle pieces of her past and show the people that have judge her, that they have no control over her adult life.
LIKE- I need to start by saying that this is a very odd little movie. In tone and humor, it's similar to another Australian film, Muriel's Wedding. The humor is dark and the overarching story requires a strong suspension of disbelief. It's quite outlandish. What makes it a little unusual is the way the story mixes humor and drama, often the lines are blurred. The general vibe in the theatre and talk as we exited, was uncertainty. Is this funny? Is it supposed to be? Overall, I left the theatre feeling positive about The Dressmaker. The ending is a feel-good, cheer for the protagonist moment, leaving the audience on a high-note. There was clapping during the credits.
One of the strongest story elements is the relationship between Myrtle and her mother. It's heartbreaking. Winslet and Davis are fantastic in the roles, the best parts of the film are when they share the screen. They are both powerhouse actresses. I wouldn't be surprised if Oscar nominations come their way. In a supporting role, I adored Hugo Weaving, playing a sergeant who befriends Myrtle in an attempt to make amends for his role in her sending her away. He's charming, funny, and one of Myrtle's few allies. The guilt he has been suppressing over his role in her life, is also heartbreaking. Much of The Dressmaker is a punch to the gut.
The costumes = gorgeous. I wanted to go raid the wardrobe department. Myrtle makes dresses for a majority of the women in town as she tries to obtain their favor and ultimately get information from them regarding the murder. As such, Winslet ( who is stunning in this film), isn't the only one who gets a fabulous wardrobe.
Liam Hemsworth plays Teddy, Myrtle's love interest. Hemsworth is fine in the role, but he is mostly eye-candy. The theatre was filled with mostly senior citizen women and several did some cat-calling when Hemsworth was on the screen, especially when he took his shirt off. I don't agree with talking or shouting in movie theaters, but it was hilarious. I think they just couldn't help themselves.
DISLIKE- Perhaps, the uncertain tone of the film creates a barrier. For example, during a major dramatic turning point towards the end of the film, when a main character dies, it felt completely out-of-the blue. It didn't jive with the rest of the film. It was unexpected, but in a way that didn't work for me. This story has many dark themes- child abuse, spousal abuse, town shaming, intense bullying, kids who feel unprotected by the adults around them...even with this, I ultimately think the story could have been slightly lighter in tone. It turns very dark and tragic towards the end third, which piled on top of the overarching themes, is too much. Luckily, Myrtle is a strong character, I don't think I could have sat through it otherwise.
RECOMMEND- If you like Kate Winslet, revenge movies, or off-beat comedies, add The Dressmaker to your list. Even if you have no interest in the film, check out pictures of the costumes.