The Dressmaker is not the movie you think it will be. The trailers made it look like the usual romantic-comedy with Kate Winslet’s Tilly Dunnage returning after a mysterious event made her a pariah and then the local village community reacting (in a comedic way) to her return. Of course there is also a very handsome man to help her on her way.
This is only part of the story though and underneath this initial premise, there is a very funny movie, which will shock many people as the plot progresses. In fact, it becomes difficult to review because there are some genuine shocks, twists and surprises in the tale, which will illicit a tear as much as a laugh in places.
This is both a positive and negative. It is a positive because it offers a genuine intriguing and unexpected movie-watching experience. It can be a negative because the way the plot develops, twists and changes can also mean the tone seems wild too. In places it is a comedy, at times a family-drama and at some of the more shocking points it takes a particularly dark edge, especially when the central mystery plays out and the reason for Winslet’s character leaving is finally revealed.
Winslet is great here. She heads a top-class cast who look to be having plenty of fun in a movie which asks them all to do things slightly bizarre at some point. This includes a cross-dressing Hugo Weaving who brings some of the best laughs and a smoldering Liam Hemsworth who is not much more than eye-candy but offers one of the more interesting plot developments.
It is the relationship between Winslet’s Tilly and her Mum Molly Dunnage played by an excellent Judy Davis, which brings the movie to life. Their scenes are funny, sad and uplifting and the film belongs as much to Davis’ character as it does to Winslet’s, with her arc being one of the more poignant and better parts of the movie.
The whole film will leave you slightly empty though as you aren’t sure what it is aiming for. It can be very funny but is never a comedy, it can be sad but isn’t really a drama and in places it almost feels like a revenge movie but you don’t get that feeling of satisfaction from Winslet’s action as they want you to. What you will never be is bored though and sometimes it’s best to not be able to pigeon-hole a movie at all.
Overall, The Dressmaker is a movie which almost defies catagorisation. It will make you laugh, cry and shock with it’s unwieldy plot. It also means the tone of the movie can be unwieldy too, as it struggles to balance some of the darker elements with some crazed comedy too.
Rating – 3
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)