Starring Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth Winslet lands in the Australian outback in How to Make an American Quilt director Jocelyn Moorhouse’s adaptation of a novel by Rosalie Ham. She stars as dressmaker Mertyl ‘Tilly’ Dunnage, a woman returning to her isolated hometown after being accused of murder at a young age. Her arrival comes as a surprise to the locals most of whom still despise her, but especially her mother Mad Molly, played by Judy Davis, who has become a hermit. Tilly intends to make amends with her but also teach the rest of the town a nasty lesson, while making them dresses. The plot encompasses everything from child death to marital rape to domestic violence but always with a spring in its step, giving a lightness to dark material but without the smarts to make it sell as a black comedy. At times, amidst the often exhausting chaos on show, it also wants to be taken seriously, especially near the end with tragedy fitting in uneasily around the grisly mayhem. There is a notable age issue. Winslet is 39 but Tilly was classmates with a character played by Predestination star Sarah Snook who is 28. She also has a romance with a local played by Liam Hemsworth, who is 25, who remembers her before she left, even though he wouldn’t have been born then. Oh and her teacher is played by Kerry Fox, who is just 10 years older than Winslet in real life. While it’s nice to finally see the tables turned and to see a woman in a relationship with a younger man, it would be been a nice touch if it had made any actual sense. There is some fun to be had however. Judy Davis, as Winslet’s feral mother, understands the insanity around her and delivers a fun, high-pitched performance while the fast-paced madness of the plot ensures a lack of boredom. The Dressmaker fails to go far enough for it to be recommended as a brilliant film but it’s not fashioned into anything else remotely palatable leaving the viewer all dressed up but with too many places to go. Great to see former Ballarat boy Simon Maiden in the film as a photographer.
Rated M 7 out of 10
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