‘The Dressmaker’ Redefines Revenge with Glamour and Grit

Dressing up revenge in designer silk and chiffon

After 20 years away from home, Tilly Dunnage returns to her country town in Dungatar, Australia to clear her name of a crime that she may have committed as a young schoolgirl. Trained as a haute couture seamstress in the European fashion capitals under Madame Vionnet and Balenciaga, Tilly transforms the local women from plain to dame in an effort to learn the truth about what happened.

Tilly finds good company with her eccentric mother, Molly, otherwise known as Mad Molly to the town; flamboyant cross-dressing Sargent Farrat; and the handsome boy-next-door, Teddy.

The rest of the lot is truly rubbish.

The trailer is misleading, because this is not a happy-go-lucky film. If anything, the film, which is based on the book, aims to expose viewers to the darker side of human nature. The absurdities of character and the consciously committed indiscretions played out by the townspeople are what Tilly fights against as she pursues the truth.

The picture is like a grittier, off-center Wes Anderson film in the middle of Australia. Each shot is carefully composed with details to reflect a small town frozen in time and its residents who refuse to change. All of the critics unanimously agreed that the beautiful costumes against the dull town were the most incredible constant throughout the film.

One of the things that film critics panned The Dressmaker for was the arguably fast, tumultuous, and somewhat abrupt pace—I think this is what makes the movie fantastic. The pace of the film matches the level of absurdity of the people in Dungatar. Australians are known for their unabashed, rogue nature, so it seemed appropriate for the film to play out in such an irreverent way.

It is understandable to see how the film may have overdone it, but at the same time, it’s the wild characters and borderline reckless pace that makes The Dressmaker an unforgettable picture.

Appreciate Mad Molly’s humorous shouts, Tilly’s sharp comebacks, Sargent Farrat’s desires, Teddy’s amazing football physique tender whispers…

And, if nothing else, appreciate the dresses.

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