The Dressmaker provides an averagely warm comedy-drama as the winter finally begins to settle in.
The Dressmaker follows Mertyl Dunnage as she comes home to confront a past that haunts her.
Relative newcomer Jocelyn Moorhouse has managed to bring together a good cast, a quirky script and unusual comedy but altogether it seems to be missing something that doesn’t quite meet the mark.
The film itself looks great. Settling on a little town in the middle of Australia, the cinematography really grants you the opportunity to be part of the outback. Only focusing on a small location gives you a good sense of scale, giving a more theatrical feel to the production rather than a ‘blockbuster’ Hollywood movie. This intimate technique gives the audience a clever connection with the setting, allowing you to understand its claustrophobic theme throughout.
Unfortunately, its not until we begin to dig deeper into the story that the issues really start to become apparent. Insisting on including all story angles, the editing creates a nightmarish pacing issue, creating a puzzle like story with scenes. Seemingly put together with the ‘this scene would look alright here’ mentality, it causes you to lose track of the main story thread and instead, insists showing you what the characters are up to. Its not necessarily a bad thing to show you the wider world, but when its more interesting than your main theme, you start taking away some of the main plot.
The screenplay however does provide a quirky direction that is unusual given the intended audience. Painted like a ‘feel-good’ film from the trailer, the path of the story does change significantly from expectation and does make you leave feeling like you have seen something different to what you had been sold. Laced with a much needed humour, its difficult not to praise the timing of some jokes given some of the more serious content.
Like most other book adaptations however, balance is the issue that plagues this production. Weighted more heavily to the second half, nothing really happens in the beginning – leaving the second half packed with tight set pieces full of comedy, tragedy and drama. This dizzying compounding of story feels rushed and as such doesn’t provide the impact that its meant to.
Kate Winslet provides us with a strong female lead, bringing to life a character hurt by her home town. Hugo Weaving is hilarious as the law enforcer and even Liam Hemsworth gives a passable performance as the male love interest. Judy Davis is the standout performance though, with great comic timing mixed with a brilliant performance she is definitely the must see element of the film.
Although decent on paper, there was one glaringly obvious flaw with the cast – the characters that were meant to be the same age, were clearly not! This age issue infects the whole story, making you question whether this was done on purpose or not. Its a shame really, as individually, its a good cast, but in confines of the story, it just impacts the story in a big way!
Overall, The Dressmaker is an easy to watch drama before the Christmas season begins. With some decent performances and interesting story it could have been a lot better but with an unbalanced plot, mismatched editing and a serious casting issue, we are left with something that will easily be forgotten. 2.5 out of 5 stars
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