Sneak Peek: The Dressmaker
A glamorous, worldly dressmaker returns to her small Australian hometown to seek the truth behind her notorious reputation. This dark and quirky comedy stars Academy Award winner Kate Winslet as Tilly Dunnage, who cares for her eccentric mother (Academy Award nominee Judy Davis), schemes with the local sergeant (Hugo Weaving) who has secrets of his own, and falls for local farmer Teddy (Liam Hemsworth). As she starts to unravel her scandalous past, she transforms the town’s women with her exquisite creations. Armed with only her sewing machine and haute couture style, Tilly shows she is a force to be reckoned with and that revenge never goes out of style. (Runtime: 118 minutes)
Starring: Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving, Sarah Snook, Judy Davis, Caroline Goodall
Directed by: Jocelyn Moorhouse
Written by: (Novel by) Rosalie Ham, (Screenplay by) P.J. Hogan and Jocelyn Moorhouse
To listen to our interview with writer-director Jocelyn Moorhouse, click here!
This transcript has been lightly edited:
The Referee: Guess what, listeners?
The Critic: What?
Ref: The Critic and I got to see a Sneak Peek of “The Dressmaker,” coming out in theaters September 23. And, it stars a stellar cast. But, before we get to the cast —
Ref: It’s directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, and it’s a novel by (in British dialect) Rosalie Ham.
Critic: (in British dialect) Oh.
Ref: (in British dialect) And, it’s also written by P.J. Hogan and Jocelyn Moorhouse, as well. (end of British dialect) This is a story about Down Under, starring everybody you ever want to see from Down Under in a movie together. Kate Winslet, who is not from Down Under, is starring as the lead; Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving, the great Judy Davis —
Ref: — along with others that we’ll talk a little bit about. Let’s give the plot, real quick, Critic.
Critic: Well, what happens is: Kate Winslet plays … The Dressmaker!
Ref: (laughing) She sure does — Myrtle!
Critic: OK? And, everyone, that is literal.
Critic: But, this is not a dressmaker you wanna cross. Now, she returns to her hometown in Australia.
Ref: (whistles, then laughter) You’ll get that in the movie.
Critic: Yes. But, it is like a western. You know, you get the blowing sand and whatever else, going.
Ref: Dusty town. (laughter)
Critic: Yes. So, she goes to her mother, who is out of it — let’s just say that. Her mother’s played by Judy Davis: great —
Ref: Oh, my gosh. Wow.
Critic: — performance. OK? (laughs) So, they have their own issues. And, really, the question is this for her: Why or what happened in her past to get these people to hate her?
Ref: You know what? I’m gonna say it: Did she murder someone or not?
Critic: (elongated) OK.
Ref: There. Now, that’ll wet your whistle.
Critic: She can’t remember, Ref. She cannot remember it. But, along the way, in this little journey, she has some payback —
Ref: Mm. She sure does.
Critic: — to exact to specific people in this small town. Also, there’s a sheriff, played by Hugo Weaving, who —
Ref: — who has particular tastes. (laughs)
Critic: Yes, he does; he loves those dresses. I mean (laughter), he pulls out the fabric, and he loves it. I mean, it’s hilarious; it’s hilarious. And, what she does — the other part of this, the subplot — is she helps the women of the town turn into, just, glamazons. She has, just, such a skill with the sewing machine. She makes dresses that accentuate them in all the right places.
Ref: Oh, my.
Critic: And, obviously, she knows makeup. (laughs) Because, they get the right makeup after that. So, at the end of this, everybody, the question is: Does she get her full revenge?
Critic: And, is it worth it?
Ref: Ooh, yeah. Yeah, she pays a big price.
Critic: Yes, what is the price that’s paid? Not only by her —
Critic: — but also by others.
Ref: Yeah. So, that’s the basic plot line. And, actually, the Critic did a wonderful job of streamlining it, because it is a novel.
Ref: And, when you watch the movie, you’ll see that. You could, actually, literally, feel the chapters —
Ref: — as you move along through the movie. So, the plot was great — explained. But, actually worked out, it was a lot happening.
Ref: But, before we get into those things, we’ve gotta talk about these performances. Because, that’s a real highlight here. You are going to get your money’s worth, as far as getting the performances out of these actors. Stellar, stellar performance by Judy Davis, who plays this deranged mother. There is not a false moment. She doesn’t let up, and she also has a full arc.
Ref: She goes from deranged to where we see her at the end —
Ref: — and all the in-betweens. Also, Hugo Weaving: (laughing) You have not seen Hugo Weaving quite like this.
Critic: Well, maybe you have, if you saw a certain movie he was in. I won’t say what it is.
Ref: Yeah, don’t say that movie. (laughter) But, this certainly is no “Matrix”; he’s not the Agent in this. He is, definitely, a wonderful, wonderful breath of fresh air (laughs) in this movie.
Critic: Yeah. “Stunning!” (laughter)
Ref: “Stunning.” Also, Liam Hemsworth — who, pretty much, plays the romantic interest of Kate Winslet — does his job. I mean, he’s that guy: He’s a guy from Down Under, who plays rugby or, you know, whatever the sport was (laughter) — cricket. I don’t know what it was.
Critic: Yeah, I think it was rugby. I think you’re exactly right, there. And, the other thing about him, which was interesting with Kate Winslet, is: He was able to make us buy that they would be attracted to each other.
Ref: Yeah, it was a wonderful chemistry. So, overall — I don’t know if you want to highlight any other performances, but even the supporting cast — really, there wasn’t a false moment.
Ref: There wasn’t a false beat. But there were some problems.
Critic: You know, it’s such a blend of so many different genres; it’s difficult, and it is, partly, because of the book, like you said — it’s very difficult: It’s a western at one moment; it’s a romance in another; it’s a comedy at another —
Ref: It’s a revenge piece. (laughs)
Critic: It’s a revenge piece; it’s a stage (laughing) play. I mean, it’s, like, all of this stuff going on. But, it’s never dull.
Ref: Yeah. Yeah.
Critic: That’s the thing. And, it is shot beautifully.
Critic: I think that Jocelyn Moorhouse did a perfect job with that. The music —
Ref: Yeah. Yeah.
Critic: — was expertly chosen. You know what it’s like? Let me break it down like this — and I said this to you, Ref: What would happen if “Chocolat” —
Critic: — the movie, went from (in French accent) Paris (ends accent) to Australia.
Critic: But, it made two stops along the way.
Critic: Stick with me, now. The first stop was to visit a western. (laughter) And the second stop, a short stop, was to visit Tim Burton. (laughs)
Critic: If that happened, then it could be “The Dressmaker.” Now, take that and do with it what you will.
Ref: You know what? That’s a great explanation. Listen, overall, when you go see “The Dressmaker” — and I say when, because you can trust people like Kate Winslet — you will go for a ride. Just let it be a ride. Don’t try and hold on too tight.
Ref: Just let it take you where it does. Know that — I’m just gonna put it out there — people die.
Ref: People have to die. (laughs)
Ref: Some people have to die; some people just die. And, you’re kinda like: Well, that was a main character, what’s happening here? How is this going to work out in the end? Don’t worry about it; at the very end, there is recompense. (laughs)
Critic: Yeah, yeah. And, just to add to that, this is a film of moments.
Critic: It’s not an arc, you’re gonna get. You get great moments; they are not strung together in a way that’s as compelling as you might expect. But, the performances, like you said: Oh, my goodness! You know what? To end it here, my last point: (laughs) It is the kind of film that the Golden Globes would love. It’s that kind of thing.
Ref: Yup. So, “The Dressmaker” is coming out September 23. And, if we can just give you one more reason to watch it … you’ll love the costumes.