The Dressmaker (2015)

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If pure entertainment is your goal, then The Dressmaker is a very funny and engaging Australian farce. However, if you want authenticity in storytelling, accuracy of period-sets, and narrative believability, you might be disappointed. It’s all about expectations: the higher you set them the further you fall.

You will enjoy the film more if you recognise this piece of Aussie silliness as pastiche comedy, a genre that has no intention of taking things seriously. It’s like the painter who deliberately applies layers of paint too thickly, with exaggerated colours and bold strokes that produce caricatures not characters and a story arc in crazy loops without predictability or linearity. That’s why opinions differ so widely about The Dressmaker. So just accept the incongruity of Dior haute couture in an outback shanty town, the endearing closet transvestite policeman, the parody of class bitchiness between respectable townsfolk and outcasts, and the quest for vengeance using the transformative power of female fashion. None of it is serious.

It could easily have been made into a great Australian film that was understood by audiences around the world. But as an incoherent Aussie mashup, with lashings of bogan humour and echoes of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), Muriel’s Wedding (1994), Strictly Ballroom (1992) and many others, it has been home-grown for our enjoyment and enjoyable it certainly is.

Kate Winslet is almost upstaged by Judy Davis as her mum, and Hugo Weaving trumps them both in uniform or pink taffeta. Liam Hemsworth is a bit too hipster to be believable as a 1950s farm hand, but his eye-candy value adds another visual wild-card. The star-studded cast would have enjoyed the frolic and so will any audience if the film is approached in the right way.


Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse

Stars: Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving