Rated: R for brief language and a scene of violence. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: September 23, 2016 Released by: Broad Green Pictures
Director Jocelyn Moorhouse (A Thousand Acres, How To Make An American Quilt) returns to her roots with husband and writing partner P.J. Hogan (My Best Friend's Wedding, Muriel's Wedding) in a polished, distinctive period piece that veers from dark wit to overwrought tragedy.
A watchable, yet shrill and ballsy The Dressmaker stars Oscar-winner Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs) as the eponymous character in what traverses romance, thriller, melodrama, and mystery, if not leaving out other (sub) genres working feverishly from a Gothic-infused bestseller from Rosalie Ham.
Her 'Tilly' Dunnage returns (from the City of Lights as a stellar seamstress) to a sleepy but secretively simmering Australian backwater hamlet that predictably allows paring down of imperious austerity. Circa 1951 she has grand fashion aplomb to counter the prevailing ill-will of its denizens that left her a pariah years ago. Now the femme fatale of haute couture returns with a vengeance with a Singer sewing machine, golf clubs, and plenty of talent.
She's a bit hesitant at first to embrace handsome bloke of a neighbor Teddy, a fairly appealing Liam Hemsworth (off-screen beau of Miley Cyrus), and adorns cross-dressing cop Sgt. Farrat (Hugo Weaving, remembered from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert). Perhaps the most interesting relational part of what is hardly like The Dresser or Dressed To Kill (though Winslet wouldn't be mistaken for the implications of the latter) is Tilly and her mentally unstable, wheelchair-bound mother Molly done with sentient and brusque strokes by estimate veteran actress Judy Davis. Tilly setting up shop with Molly helps to propel the plot which unearths revelations that more than offsets any frivolity which preceded it.
For some discerning cineastes The Dressmaker stitches too haphazardly where secrets, lies, betrayal intersect with humanity best indicated through Molly as Tilly's gun-slinging demeanor gradually casts a more sensitive umbra over the earlier flourishes. Other supporting characters (including a competitor and a hardly have the kind of impact that would sway a stronger emotional impulse. It's clear that Davis and thin-mustached flamboyant Weaving are standouts and notable relief around the 'Gilda'-type smoking vamp as Winslet probably got a kick inhabiting this type of role. Yet, for the wise choices made by Moorhouse and Morgan to coalesce two time frames the disheartening foreboding result lets a little chaos find excess in lurid parody.