Whoever was responsible for The Dressmaker’s trailer, deserves an Academy Award for ‘the most misleading trailer of 2015’. What has largely been marketed as a ‘safe’, lighthearted romp is, in truth, far from it. It’s actually a dark and twisted western-inflected revenge film, and one of this year’s strangest filmic oddities.
The tone is set from the off, as the opening credits play over images of a bus travelling though the darkly lit vistas of the Australian country and desert; all of which is accompanied with the familiar twang of a western soundtrack.
On the bus is Myrtle ‘Tilly’ Dunnage – played with fizz, by Kate Winslet – who is returning to her hometown of Dungatar, having spent years travelling Europe, working in fashion.
On the surface, Dungatar is a small, quaint, tight-knit community; but behind closed doors it’s full of cross-dressing policemen, former woman beaters, and serial adulterers. It’s a place which draws up comparisons to The League of Gentleman and the films of Tim Burton, which often deal with the facade of surburban communities.
Having been exiled for her apparent involvement in the death of a young boy, the now grown up Tilly, has returned to look after her ill mother, Molly. As the pair try to piece together what happened on that fateful day, Tilly finds acceptance within the town, through her fabulous 1950’s frocks. But is this all part of a bigger plan?
As you can probably tell, there’s a lot going on in The Dressmaker. Between the various plot threads that include a murder, a curse, a love story and a mother/daughter relationship, it can prove difficult to keep up with the madness.
Tonally, it’s all over the place. One moment you’ll be laughing at something you probably shouldn’t be laughing at, due to its pitch black humour; and the next, you’ll be swooning over the romantic relationship between Liam Hemsworth and Kate Winslet.
However, in this instance, the film still works as a totally ludicrous experience, which is admirable in that it dares to be different. It is flawed and drags on for perhaps too long, especially during its middle twenty-minutes or so; but there’s still a lot to like within it. Namely, the performances.
Kate Winslet and Judy Davis make for a terrific double act, and it’s their hilarious back and forth which carries the film. Liam Hemsworth proves charming as the main love interest too, but it is Hugo Weaving who steals the show as the aforementioned cross-dressing policeman.
It’s not perfect by any means, but The Dressmaker gets big points from me, for simply being one of the most weird and darkly comic films I’ve seen this year. It may not be as ‘mumsy’ and as sparkly as you might have been led to believe, but it is at least surprising. And in a good way.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com