Dressmaker Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet) hasn’t been back to her rural Australian hometown of Dungatar since the day she was sent away as a little girl, suspected of being involved in the death of a boy at her school. With no memory of the incident, but a desire to clear her name and get revenge on those who wronged her, Tilly moves back in with her mother – known to the townspeople as Mad Molly (Judy Davis) – much to the dismay of the residents of Dungatar. But Tilly soon learns that not everyone in town is unhappy about her return, namely dashing farm-boy Teddy (Liam Hemsworth), and that while she’s made a lot of enemies in Dungatar, she has a lot of friends too.
Based on Rosalie Ham’s novel of the same name, The Dressmaker is an eccentric and wonderful film whose oddball characters and quirky style of filmmaking brought to mind classic Australian movies like Muriel’s Wedding and Strictly Ballroom. The town of Dungatar is full of weird and wacky personalities who are all embraced so wholeheartedly by the plethora of talented Aussie actors who play them, including the likes of Hugo Weaving as the flamboyant town police officer who has a penchant for designer clothing, Sarah Snook as the desperately-in-need-of-a-makeover Gertrude, plus Caroline Goodall, Rebecca Gibney, Shane Jacobson, and Kerry Fox. Despite casting Brit Kate Winslet in the leading role (who is surprisingly accomplished at imitating an Australian accent), this is a Aussie film through and through, and it embodies the sightly off-kilter, but always entertaining nature of classic Australian cinema.
While the quirkiness sometimes comes off as a little chaotic and nonsensical on screen, this comedy drama is for the most part marvelously engaging, hugely funny and unexpectedly moving. Kate Winslet performs magnificently as Tilly Dunnage, expressing the roller coaster of emotions she feels towards her hometown in a way that is layered yet perfectly relatable. This is backed up by the formidable Judy Davis, as well as Liam Hemsworth, who proves he is a lot more than just a pretty face.
I personally really loved The Dressmaker, however I do see it becoming a rather divisive film, with people disliking director Jocelyn Moorhouse’s peculiar approach. But if you embrace the film’s idiosyncrasies, I think you’ll find a really poignant and lovely story underneath, with just a dash of revenge to keep things interesting!