The Dressmaker DVD Review

DVD Review by Jarred Tito

The Premise
Based on Rosalie Ham's best-selling novel, The Dressmaker is the story of femme fatale Tilly Dunnage who returns to her small home town in the country to right the wrongs of the past. A stylish drama with comic undertones about love, revenge and haute couture.

The Review
The film opens with beautifully shot scenes of the small 'outback' town Dungatar, Victoria, Australia. The music score and the cinematic quality as the opening credits appear, holds the promise of something very special. There's a hint of an old school and playground, the local trading post and a house or two. The train station, where we are first introduced to Myrtle "Tilly" Dunnage (played by Kate Winslet the main star of the movie) is a long way from town. She exits the train and places her Singer sowing machine (the other star of the film) onto the platform. In retrospect, the scene is not unlike, or very much like the opening scene of a 'spaghetti western'. But instead of a 'Smith & Wesson' in their holster our protagonist is armed with needle and thread.
The film is based on the popular novel by Rosalie Ham which is written as a light hearted, tongue and cheek, work of fiction. A 'revenge film' through and through. The film, however, moves through several genres and at times, if I'm honest, gets a little lost within the genres. There are some very dramatic scenes where the acting talents of Kate Winslet, Hugo Weaving, Judy Davis and new comers Liam Hemsworth and Sarah Snook can really be admired and are heart felt and moving. Then there are the scenes that feel like they belong in another movie like 'Strictly Ballroom' or 'The Castle' and not forgetting, 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert'. I could not help myself from making those connections after experiencing Hugo Weavings performance. Now having comedy in drama or the other way around is fine but I not quite sure if the transitions from one to the other were quite there. Well I'm not exactly how to explain it but I do remember feeling a little puzzled at some of the 180 dramatic turns.
Having said that, the film is well made and shows us just how well the Australian's can make a movie. And although more than half of the cast are made to play one dimensional 'stock' characters which at are not unlike the characters from a children's pantomime, the story does carry enough of a plot to keep you watching.

The Verdict
Some have likened this film to Clint Eastwood's 'Unforgiven' and I can see how they could arrive at that conclusion but they are wrong! This is clearly closer (much, much closer) to Clint's other film, 'High Plains Drifter' which came out in 1973 long before UnforgivenThe DressMaker is a real mixed bag when it comes to style and genre and might leave you feeling a little emotionally short changed. However, it is still quite entertaining and funny with some nice pieces of drama. Or is that... dramatic with some unexpected humour? Not as good as Strictly Ballroom of The Castle but not bad either.

The Trailer

The Info
DVD Releases: 20th April 2016
Rating: M – Contains Violence, sexual references & offensive language
Duration: 119 minutes 
Genre:  Drama
Starring: Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving
Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse (A Thousand Acres, Proof)

The Extras
Production was pushed back a year to accommodate Kate Winslet's pregnancy with husband Ned RocknRoll.

Elizabeth Debicki and Isla Fisher were both originally attached for supporting roles.

The second film Kate Winslet & Sarah Snook have worked on together. Their first collaboration was Triple Nine (2015).