Movie Review: The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker is elevated by committed performances and production design, but its bogged down by jarring tonal shifts and aimless weirdness.

A glamorous woman returns to her small town in rural Australia. With her sewing machine and haute couture style, she transforms the women and exacts sweet revenge on those who did her wrong.

The Dressmaker reads like a Stephen King story – violence underneath the facade of small town simplicity, minus the supernatural elements.

The story plays out like a manic weird cartoon but manages to be entertaining thanks to a stellar cast. It’s hard not too root for Kate Winslet, so you watch along to find what brings a well dressed dame to a podunk town. She’s surrounded by a great supporting cast of characters that proved to be good foils. The talented ensemble includes under-appreciated veterans Hugo Weaving and Judy Davis, as well as talented newcomer Sarah Snook. Surprisingly, Liam Hemsworth is not a good-looking cardboard here as he delivers a charming portrayal of an Aussie bloke.

Living up to its title, the movie has great costume design – the figure hugging 50’s haute couture of Tilly provides a good contrast with the women’s homely outdated clothing. The cinematography is able to make quaint compositions of a low budget setting and the set design is detailed enough to give every interior a lived in look.

While The Dressmaker is an amusing comedy of sorts it’s also a weird mess.

The movie is too unreal to be relatable. The town is so small that it makes you wonder how its horrible residents kept their secrets hidden. It’s nice to see an older woman score a younger man on screen for a change, but this doesn’t make sense in the story. Tilly was taken away at the age of 10, but somehow managed to win the heart of a boy who look like he wasn’t even born yet during that time.

It can be said that the movie aims to be a theatrical farce. However, the plot can’t make up its mind nor goes far enough to become a strange curiosity. The movie zips through marital rape, domestic violence and death while also trying to be a mystery, thriller, horror, comedy and revenge saga with a sprinkle of a mother and daughter drama.

Yep, The Dressmaker is all over the place and you’re not quite sure what to make of it. There’s something witty about Tilly’s inability to fully appreciate her own reinvention while also having the power to transform people. It’s also ironic how this transformation is useless as her well made dresses can’t mask the ugly core of its owners. Sadly, this gets lost in the straight-up weirdness of the movie.

Still, the movie is a fun ride as long as you don’t take a moment to figure out where the hell you’re going. Overall, The Dressmaker is a well made ensemble with clashing prints.

My Rating: 5/10

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