Monday, 1 February 2016


“There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us, and not we, them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.” - Virginia Woolf

For Movie Monday today, an Australian film, the 2015 Jocelyn Moorhouse movie “The Dressmaker” starring Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving and Judy Davis. The film is based on Australian author Rosalie Ham’s Gothic novel first published by Duffy & Snellgrove on January 1, 2000. The story is set in a 1950s fictional Australian country town, Dungatar, and explores love, hate and haute couture. The novel is divided into four sections, each named after a different fabric and representing different phases in the story: Gingham, shantung, felt and brocade. I have not read the novel, but the quirky film was interesting and entertaining.

The plot centres on Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage (Winslet) who returns home to rural Australia after spending time abroad becoming an accomplished fashion designer. Much of the story hinges on her childhood: As a child Tilly was sent to a boarding school in Melbourne by Sergeant Farrat (Weaving) as she was accused of killing the boy who bullied her. Her mother, Molly (Davis) initially doesn’t recognise the adult Tilly on her return o town and thinks she is dealing with an impostor. Molly eventually accepts her into her home and Tilly transforms it into a couturier’s salon where she begins to make haute couture clothes for the women of the town. In the meantime, she becomes romantically involved with Teddy McSwiney (Hemsworth) whom she has known since they were children. The town still hasn’t forgiven Tilly for apparently killing the boy and believe she is cursed. Tilly’s plan is to exact revenge on all those who did her wrong and she will apparently stop at nothing to succeed...

The film is episodic in nature and difficult to classify into a single genre. There is quite a great deal going on and there are many characters introduced throughout. Many familiar Australian actors get lines in this movie and it’s great to see them doing their thing so well. Kate Winslet assumes a fantastic Australian accent and it certainly complements Hemsworth’s drawl. Judy Davis is fantastic in her role, which deserves a supporting actress Oscar.

There are moments of hilarious humour, moments of poignancy, great sadness, frustration and quirkiness. A true roller-coaster in terms of everything that is going on. Part of the film’s charm perhaps is because of this failure to classified and pigeon-holed and it can be considered to mirror life in this respect. There is poetic license, of course, and an almost magical realism about the situation as well as an unconventional ending. Given the film’s title and the short publicity blurb I read about it before seeing it, I thought it was going to be a standard chick-flick, but no, it doesn’t fall into that type either.

The sets, costumes, cinematography and authentic touches of the 1950s era were extremely well done and one felt transported back in time, watching this idiosyncratic tale. I would recommend it anyone and I would say that it was quite an entertaining two hours we spent watching it. The film has a great message, as well, about the few bad people who are hasty in making terrible judgments and who are able to influence a whole lot of others, thus making life miserable for everyone…

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