Genre: Drama
Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse
Cast: Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving, Sarah Snook, Caroline Goodall, Kerry Fox
Runtime: 1 hr 59 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Coarse Language and Some Sexual References)
Released By: Shaw
Official Website:

Opening Day: 28 January 2016

Synopsis: THE DRESSMAKER tells the story of the beautiful and talented Tilly Dunnage (Academy Award winner KATE WINSLET). After years working as a dressmaker in exclusive Parisian fashion houses, Tilly returns home to a town in the Australian outback to reconcile with her eccentric mother Molly (Academy Award nominee JUDY DAVIS). She also falls in love with the pure-hearted Teddy (LIAM HEMSWORTH), and armed with her sewing machine and haute couture style, Tilly transforms the women of the town, exacting sweet revenge on those who did her wrong.

Movie Review:

It’s as if Australian filmmaker Jocelyn Moorhouse (How to make an American Quilt) is trying to make up for lost time because her latest directorial effort, The Dressmaker after an absence of eight years is a mixture of whimsical comedy, a mystery thriller and a tragic melodrama. 

Based on the book by Rosalie Ham and adapted by Moorhouse and her director husband P.J. Hogan (Peter Pan), The Dressmaker tells the story of Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet) who returns to her sleepy hometown of Dungatar after mastering her skills at the haute couture in Paris. But Tilly has a dark past, she was branded a murderer after the death of the town councilor’s son. The unfortunate event results her being sent off and the subsequent estrangement from her mom, Molly (Judy Davis).

Years later, Tilly is back. First to take care of her ailing mother at the same time exact revenge on those bastards who wronged her and lastly, perhaps find a handsome lover in the end.  

While the setting should be somewhere in the 50’s, Dungatar resembles more like a period western town inhibited by various quirky residents. There’s the fearsome looking teacher, a hunchback pharmacist, a town councilor with high libido and a cross-dressing policeman, Sergeant Farrat (Hugo Weaving). Each probably has a part to play in the mysterious murder case years back. Who is involved and who is withholding the truth?

For the first half of the movie, Moorhouse is happy to play all silly and innocent with Tilly trying to turn the women of Dungatar into fashionistas. That all begins with the drastic transformation of the daughter of the grocery store, Gertude (Sarah Nook). The title is not called The Dressmaker for nothing. Then there is the local hunk, Teddy (Liam Hemsworth) who has a thing for Tilly. Believe it or not, Winslet is 14 years older than Liam in real-life but luckily we all have Liam’s bushy beard to thank for.  

The movie’s tone and direction starts to go awry and dark when some townsfolk just for no reason met their death in macabre manner in the last act. Is someone up there helping Tilly’s on her revenge plan or is this Moorhouse’s wicked way of telling us in life, when one door closes, another opens?

Kate Winslet expectedly puts on a strong performance equipped with a flawless Australian accent and she is definitely perfect in the shockingly red dress. Kudos to costume designers Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson. No surprise, Judy Davis and Hugo Weaving are scene-stealers in whatever scenes they are in and so are the rest of the relatively unknown supporting cast members from Australia and New Zealand. The lush cinematography of the rich vast outback by Donald McAlpine (Ender’s Game) is a plus and the fictional town of Dungatar that is built from scratch by the production team is fabulous.

Don’t be deceived by the innocently looking title. Try to watch The Dressmaker with an open mind and be awed by the absurdities, sardonic humor and Liam’s abs.    

Movie Rating:

(The Dressmaker may cause you to be on pins and needles)

Review by Linus Tee


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