But what a mad, enjoyable film The Dressmaker is. Difficult to categorise, it flits between Western, detective story and romantic comedy. Kate Winslet oozes old school glamour as she rises above the small-minded townsfolk both sartorially and morally, bringing sympathy to what could otherwise be a shallow, showy part. Judy Davis, who plays her mother, gives an equally engaging performance in turn. The exchanges between the two are quick, amusing and consistently verging on the nonsensical.
While branding Tilly a sinner, the locals can’t resist coming back for her elegant designs. Writer and director Jocelyn Moorhouse examines the theme of temptation but through a bombastic lens. Steer clear if you want nuanced drama: think Chocolat, but bereft of subtleties of plot and characterisation and with far, far better costumes. Clean lines of haute couture — Dior and Balanciaga — are a joy to watch.
The pace drops when The Dressmaker tries too hard to fall into rom-com cliché. When Tilly distracts the local rival team in a football match match with a low-cut top, for example, or when she has to take her love-interest Liam’s chest measurements but must stop, overcome with lust. Far better is when the film returns to its batty roots: when Tilly’s mum mutters away about possums, or when the sheriff’s wife kills her husband by slitting his ankles with a kitchen knife.
But, just as you think you've got the plot sussed, a twist skewers the foreseeable frothy future. The second half of the film is by far its better, as it embraces its ridiculous pedigree, spiralling into a mad caper involving murder, drugs and arson. Characters start to drop like flies: realistic drama this ain't. But if you were to dismiss this film on the grounds of its realism you wouldn’t get past the first line, a gravelly night-time murmur from Tilly as she lights up a cigarette with the words, ‘I’m back, you b**tards.’
The Dressmaker is a dazzling, nutty caper, that will constitute a thoroughly enjoyable evening romp this winter.
The Dressmaker will be released in UK Cinemas on 20 November.
|What||The Dressmaker film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
20 Nov 15 – 20 Jan 16, Times vary depending on cinema
|Website||Click here to go to the film's IMDB page|