The Dressmaker

 

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A seamstress breezes into an Outback backwater with a score to settle and a Singer sewing machine under her arm.

 

One thing’s for sure, Kate Winslet’s latest starring vehicle won’t be for everyone. Adapted from Rosalie Ham's 2000 Gothic novel, it’s a madcap affair about rival dressmakers in the Australian Outback of 1951. It’s an odd place, Dungatar, much like many isolated communities suffering from too much gossip, sunstroke and in-breeding. The police sergeant is a cross-dresser, one old woman is addicted to hash brownies and Mr Pettyman has fathered way too many of the local children. Then Tilly Dunnage (Winslet) breezes into town like Clint Eastwood and turns the place on its head. The townsfolk think she’s a killer, but she’s just a brilliant seamstress with a crazy mother…

 

 Dressmaker

 Kate Winslet sees - and wears - red

 

Nobody does idiosyncrasy like the Australians, but director Jocelyn Moorhouse (Proof, Muriel’s Wedding) rather overplays her hand, goading her leading ladies to devour the scenery whole. And there’s some amazing scenery – along with a scene-stealing turn from Judy Davis as an “eligible hag,” and equally selfless turns from Kerry Fox and Alison Whyte. Unfortunately, the comedy seldom hits its stride and the end result is a brave but unwieldy attempt at black farce.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving, Sarah Snook, Caroline Goodall, Kerry Fox, Alison Whyte, Barry Otto, Julia Blake, Genevieve Lemon.

 

Dir Jocelyn Moorhouse, Pro Sue Maslin, Screenplay Jocelyn Moorhouse and P. J. Hogan, Ph Donald McAlpine, Pro Des Roger Ford, Ed Jill Bilcock, Music David Hirschfelder, Costumes Marion Boyce.

 

Apollo Media/Film Art Media/Screen Australia-Entertainment Film Distributors.

118 mins. Australia. 2015. Rel: 20 November 2015. Cert. 12A.