Movie Review: The Dressmaker

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In 1950’s outback Australia, Tilly Dunnage returns to her hometown of Dungatar with her Singer sewing machine and a tea chest of beautiful fabrics to take care of her sick mother, Molly.  Molly has mental health issues and is known to the town as ‘Mad Molly’ living alone in a rundown house at the top of the hill.  Molly had sent Tilly away at the age of ten because of false accusations of murder. Tilly, an expert dressmaker, has returned from Paris to Dungatar, a dry, dusty, boring, small town inhabited by colourful characters. Many deviant behaviours lurk behind the closed doors of Dungatar. The events of the death of Stuart Pettyman, who Tilly is accused of murdering, are hazy for both women, which adds to the intrigue. Tilly hopes returning to Dungatar will revive her memories and she can escape from the curse she feels she is under.

One-by-one the local women (who generally look down their noses at Tilly and her mother) come to have a dress made by Tilly, who brings a French flair to her work. She uses her sewing machine to produce garments that transform the Dungatar women from frumpy housewives, to stunning and sexy sirens. But Tilly’s real motive is revenge and she is driven by the memory of the bullies who tormented her in the school yard when she was a child. She also recalls visiting the pharmacy for medicine and the pharmacist hissing at her, ‘Your mother is a slut and you are a bastard’. So she plots revenge on the people of Dungatar with the help of Mad Molly.

Kate Winslet is gorgeous as the gutsy Tilly who stops the rugby game mid-play in her red dress when she first arrives in Dungatar. Liam Hemsworth (equally gorgeous) is Teddy who has always been in love with Tilly and courts her until she agrees to marry him. They plan to live in Melbourne and take Mad Molly and Teddy’s mentally disabled brother Barney with them. It is Barney who remembers a detail of the ‘murder’ which leads Tilly to find the truth.

Revenge comedy drama is an interesting genre. It’s not a historical romance, as there is too much black humour neither is it a chick flick, as it touches on serious social issues. Some parts are quite dark as secrets of ordinary people are revealed. Some parts are hilarious – keep your eye on the town policeman. And some parts are tragic. And – an extra bonus – I like watching Australian movies as it’s often easy to recognise actors from other roles they’ve had in local productions. I really enjoyed this movie and the ending is brilliantly bold and dramatic as Tilly gets her revenge after all the years of abuse.

 
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