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Dressmaker, The (Jocelyn Moorhouse, 2015) wr. Jocelyn Moorhouse, P.J. Hogan, from gothic novel by Rosalie Ham, prod Sue Maslin, Film Art Media, dp Don McAlpine, pd Roger Ford, ed Jill Bilcock, costume Tim Chappel; Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Melissa George, Roy Dupuis, Liam Hemsworth, Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Debicki; 'Gothic tale of love, revenge and haute couture', 'Unforgiven with a sewing machine'; dramedy
The Dressmaker is the kind of film that might have been made by Pedro Almodovar, both for its melodramatic story complete with family secrets and for its wicked tone - as well as some notable excesses (eg Hugo Weaving's fetishist local cop Sgt Farrat [ha ha]). It is as risky, too, with deaths and disabilities crowding the frame. Winslet, co-star Liam Hemsley and Sarah Snook in her post-transformed state aside, it is also peopled by decidedly ugly characters ... probably more than Almodovar would have chosen. Andrew L. Urban, urbancinefile.
The Dressmaker is a 2015 Australian revenge comedy-drama film co-written and directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, based on the 2000 novel of the same name by Rosalie Ham. It stars Kate Winslet as a femme fatale in the title role of the dressmaker, Myrtle "Tilly" Dunnage, who returns to a small Australian town to take care of her ailing, mentally unstable mother. The film explores the themes of revenge and creativity and was described by Moorhouse as "Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven with a sewing machine".
The project was first developed in 2000, and Ham wrote a treatment herself which was not developed. Sue Maslin bought the rights to the novel and hired Moorhouse to direct and write the screenplay. Production took place in Melbourne and across Victoria, Australia in late 2014. The film had its world premiere at 2015 Toronto International Film Festival on 14 September 2015 and had a theatrical release on 29 October 2015 in Australia and New Zealand. It opened at the number 1 spot at the Australian and New Zealand box offices and became the second highest-grossing Australian film of 2015 and eleventh highest-grossing film of all time at Australian box office
Despite receiving mixed critical reviews, with praise going towards Winslet's performance and criticism focusing on its uneven tone, The Dressmaker led the 5th AACTA Awards with thirteen nominations, winning Best Lead Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Costume Design and People's Choice Award for Favourite Australian Film.
In 1926, in the fictitious Australian outback town of Dungatar, schoolgirl Myrtle Dunnage is blamed for the death of classmate Stewart Pettyman and exiled from the town by local police sergeant Horatio Farrat (Hugo Weaving).
Twenty-five years later in 1951, Myrtle, now an accomplished dressmaker going by the name Tilly (Kate Winslet), returns to Dungatar. Unable to remember the events of Stewart's death, Tilly asks her mentally ill mother Molly (Judy Davis), but she remembers nothing about the incident.
At the local football final game, Tilly’s red couture gown distracts the Dungatar players. Teddy McSwiney (Liam Hemsworth) confronts Tilly, and she changes into a black but equally alluring outfit before the last quarter. When the teams swap ends of the field, the team from nearby Winyerp are distracted by Tilly's dress, and Dungatar wins. Tilly agrees to make a dress for Gertrude Pratt (Sarah Snook) for the upcoming footballers dance, in exchange for the truth about Stewart's death. Gertrude reveals that Tilly had hidden from Stewart, who was bullying her, but Gertrude revealed Tilly's location in self-defence.
At the dance, Gertrude's dress captures the attention of William Beaumont (James Mackay), and they later become engaged. Impressed, the town's women commission extravagant dresses from Tilly; meanwhile Teddy embarks on the steadfast pursuit of a romantic relationship with her, which she resists for as long as she can.
Sergeant Farrat confesses to Tilly that he exiled her because Stewart's father Evan (Shane Bourne), a town councillor, blackmailed him for secretly being a cross-dresser. Tilly and Farrat bond over their shared passion for designer clothing. Evan recruits Una Pleasance (Sacha Horler) to start a rival dressmaking service, but when Gertrude hires Tilly to create her wedding dress, the townspeople return to Tilly, ruining Una.
Bribed with a feather boa, Farrat lets Tilly read the witness statement given by her former schoolteacher Beulah Harridiene (Kerry Fox), and she becomes convinced Beulah lied for fear Evan would blame her for Stewart’s death. Tilly tells Farrat this at Gertrude's wedding reception, but he remains convinced that Tilly killed Stewart, as everyone else in town had an alibi. He also reveals that Evan is Tilly's father. Tilly leaves, and Teddy follows after his developmentally disabled brother, Barney (Gyton Grantley), hysterically says Tilly "moved" when Stewart died.
Teddy takes Tilly to the schoolhouse, and tells her how Stewart died. Stewart had subdued Tilly against a wall, threatening to murder her mother if she moved. He charged head-down at her, but she moved aside and Stewart broke his neck. Barney witnessed this from the town silo, but was afraid people would think he was lying. Tilly and Teddy go to his caravan and make love. They sit atop the silo, and Teddy shows off by jumping inside, but asphyxiates as he sinks into the grain.
Molly reveals that Evan knew about Tilly, and when Stewart died he had Tilly sent away to hurt Molly. She encourages Tilly to use her dressmaking talents against the townspeople. After suffering a stroke, Molly dies. While Tilly and Farrat hold a wake, Beulah snoops around the house. Tilly drunkenly objects to the music, and injures Beulah when she throws the portable record player off the verandah. Beulah is helped onto a train to Melbourne, ostensibly for treatment but really to be placed in an asylum.
Percival Almanac (Barry Otto), the town chemist who mistreated Tilly as a child, drowns in a pond behind his house; his wife Irma (Julia Blake), under the influence of hash brownies baked by Molly, does not save him. To prevent Tilly's arrest, Sergeant Farrat takes the blame and is removed from the town. Tilly reveals Evan’s philandering to his wife, Marigold. Confronting Evan, Marigold cuts his Achilles tendons and leaves him to bleed to death.
Traveling to Winyerp to perform in a competitive Eisteddfod, the townspeople realize the numerous deaths have left them without a full cast, and that Tilly has created Winyerp's costumes. Tilly sets fire to her house and to a paraffin-soaked bolt of red fabric, rolling it down the hill towards the town. Stating that she is no longer cursed, she leaves the town by train. The townspeople return to find Dungatar has burned down.
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