THE DRESSMAKER (12a) ... HAD this hit and miss comedydrama been half an hour shorter, I'm sure I would remember it more fondly, but just when you think it's all neatly wrapped up, it struggles on for another half an hour... achieving nothing but creating immense frustration.
It starts off positively enough -- Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet) swings into an Australian outback town in the 1950s, looking like an American Western gunfighter, but armed only with her sewing machine.
She has returned home to the place she left under mysterious circumstances when she was a child.
During her absence, she has become a high class fashion designer, living in Paris, while the sleepy town she left looks and feels pretty much the same as it did many years ago. But Tilly has scores to settle and brings a rude awakening to the unsuspecting townsfolk, as the plot meanders back and forth, slowly revealing why we are all here.
The outcome is part tragic, part comedy and part ridiculous, but most choking of all is the idea Tilly's wonderful couture creations can solve the problems of society.
Apparently, all you need to put the world to rights is to wear a nice dress. Had the film continued in its comic genre, it would have been a lot easier to digest, but when it gets melodramatic and dark, and starts to take itself too seriously, it is redeemed only by some outstanding cinematography and sumptuous landscape and atmospheric shots.
Living in a shack on a hill is her mother Molly -- the wonderful Judy Davis who steals the whole show. Molly is a stubborn woman who doesn't remember having a daughter, so there is some relationship building to be done here, but it's nothing a good old Singer sewing machine can't sort out. Comic relief is provided by Hugo Weaving -- a camp police officer who appreciates the finer points of Tilly's fashion designing talents.
Neighbour Teddy (Liam Hemsworth) provides the love interest. We know this as he very rarely appears without a shirt.
The film is an adaptation of the novel by Rosalie Ham, which I have not read, but suspect has a plot which flows with more ease than this.
Director and writer, Jocelyn Moorhouse, has brought to life some fine characters, and filled the screen with some stunning imagery, but the plot meanders back and forth and sideways, sometimes all at the same time, to the point where I gave up caring and resolved to just enjoy the scenery.
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