How far can excellent costume design carry a film? A long way, it turns out. Kate Winslet stars as a dressmaker in the 50s, returning to her childhood village in the Australian outback. Secrets from the past are revealed as she uncovers the truth behind a murder she allegedly committed as a child.
Along the way she gets to wear outstanding outfits, as well as make some for the whole town. The high-fashion costumes clash wonderfully with the barren backdrop of the Australian wilderness and the bucolic village sat in the midst of it.
Winslet is good in the role, she manages to nail down the accent without making it the central part of her performance. It’s a well written part, which helps; part fish out of water, part daughter-coming-home, her character always has a sense of mystery yet opens up when it counts.
The story and structure is a mess however. At various moments you wouldn’t be forgiven if you’d thought the film had ended. The tone and even the genre pivot a couple of times, and it can be jarring. It’s particularly frustrating when things start to get boring.
Without going into spoilers, I might also question the order in which certain events unfold; something about the pacing and timing of the major plot points is way off.
It’s a funny film though and the sense of humour chops and changes between warm, gentle moments between characters, physical comedy and black-as-night gags. The drama hits too hard for this to be an out-and-out comedy but The Dressmaker is definitely good for a laugh or two.
This is an odd film. Some very poor decisions were made as to how it was put together, but the great lead performances, outstanding costumes and beautiful direction all make it worth your while. Not a must see, but a solid piece of work nonetheless.