The Dressmaker follows Myrtle Dunnage (Kate Winslet), returning from Paris to the town she grew up in, where her mother “Mad Molly” (Judy Davis) has all but lost her memory. She has to face the realisation that she may have murdered a young boy as a child, and even though she does not recall the fact, the town surely does.
The show is undoubtedly stolen by Judy Davis, whose timing, physical comedy and presence constantly draw the eye. One charming gag is her constant lusting after the leading man Teddy (Liam Hemsworth). Winslet alternates between commanding – captivating – and pensive – somewhat overdone – as the situation requires, while Hugo Weaving as the cross-dressing Sergeant Farrat is a constant delight.
Be warned: this is a “Dark Comedy”, in every sense of the word. I applaud writer-director Jocelyn Woodhouse’s lack of compunction regarding allowing the audience to be shocked. The film’s blatant and direct humour is interspersed with actions and language that catch you off guard.
Ultimately, the combination of rural Australia, a magnificent cast and a willingness to be as brutal and/or funny as needed has produced something exquisite. The Dressmaker is easily the best Australian dark comedy I’ve seen this century.