The Dressmaker (Australia, 2015)

Directed by: Jocelyn Moorhouse. Not to be confused with The Dressmaker. I’m always open to increasing my diet of Australian film, and this one’s got Kate Winslet. Sold! I haven’t gotten to see Kate dig her teeth into a role since Eternal Sunshine back in the day, except for the many significant but smaller roles, from Triple 9 to Steve Jobs. In many ways, this is kind of the role of a lifetime, in the sense that there’s a lot of layers going on, we never quite know what’s up with her character, if she’s trustworthy, etc, until the plot unfolds, and she has a lot of sides of her personality to show off. She enigmatic, beautiful, big-city, cosmopolitan, and a bit nasty, but then she’s also extremely vulnerable, and she’s on the defensive a bit when Liam Hemsworth comes in and out-charms and out-sexes her a bit. The whole story is really quite charming and sweet, except for the little rape sub-plot that culminates in mutilation and murder revenge—that stuff is pretty harsh. Maybe this is a feature of Australian cinema—it’s a hard existence, but they’re all so individual and unique, and their sense of humour is incredibly pronounced in a very specific way. Hugo Weaving does a great job, but I’m sure to someone more sensitive to trans issues than me, the whole story might be a bit questionable, mainly because his character and the cross-dressing is pretty firmly played for laughs. I’d submit, though, that by the end, his character really proves itself as a rounded, fully empathetic character. The mother, played by Judy Davis, is a bit of a show-stealer too, and she adds a dimension to the ensemble that not many could. And I was tempted to dismiss Liam Hemsworth as just a pretty boy, brother of a superhero, but he did a good job here, and by the end I was really sad to see him go. Overall, this arc in this movie is pretty satisfying, if a little bit fairy-tale, a little bit make-believe. But the catharsis at the end is pretty unmistakable, and I’d highly recommend to anyone, especially those interested in making dresses, or interested in Australia, or Kate Winslet.

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