Monday, October 17, 2016

The Dressmaker (2016)

Film: The Dressmaker
Stars: Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Judy Davis, Hugo Weaving, Sarah Snook
Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

I know it doesn't rival, say, Flora Plum or Margaret (at all), but The Dressmaker has been advertised for so long that I kind of can't believe I got to see it this past weekend.  I remember the initial trailer (which was out over a year ago as I recall thinking it could factor into the 2015 Oscars), and thinking "wow, Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth look dead sexy in this film."  Upon completing the film, I can confirm that, in fact, both of them are truly dead sexy in the film, though I can unfortunately also confirm that the film, while fairly fun, runs disjointed and probably all of that development allowed for too many cooks in the production kitchen.

(Spoilers Ahead) The film follows Tilly (Winslet), a woman who mysteriously waltzes back into her small Australian home town 25 years after the death of one of her classmates and being branded a murderer as a child, all the while trying to reconnect with her mother Molly (Davis) and fending off the advances of her delicious old friend Teddy (Hemsworth).  Tilly is initially dismissed as a pariah, but she has an unusual skill with a sewing machine, creating iconic, Fifth Avenue-worthy creations that start to transform the women of the town, to the point that they all look a tad ridiculous walking around the village in the highest of haute couture.  Along the way, she discovers that she did not, in fact, kill the young boy but instead he killed himself while trying to severely injure her.  She ends up in a charming picnic under the stars with Teddy while her mother starts to pull her life together after repairs have been made to their relationship.

Except that's not where the film ends.  The movie is strange about the way that it swings between a straight drama, very harrowing, and a black comedy of sorts-I probably overuse the phrase "balance problem" but there's really no other way to put it-the film suffers from a lack of a driving identity.  Is Tilly simply trying to correct a past injustice with these shallow, cruel townspeople or is she trying to move on from a tough chapter in her life?  The film really was leading toward the second half when they pull the rug out from under our eyes by letting both Teddy and Molly die in tragic deaths, the former of which feels particularly cruel since neither he nor Tilly really deserved such a nasty twist of fate (where he simply dies trying to prove she isn't cursed).

As a result, the final third of the film feels unusual in that you kind of hate the writers for it.  You get this wonderfully-spry romantic comedy for most of the movie, and then you just make us all sort of hate everyone onscreen save for Tilly.  I feel like this may have been what caused the film to be delayed-the ending, which is probably the same as the book, can't have tested well with audiences since they didn't remotely hint that Teddy could die and he was by far the most likable character in the film.  The ending, therefore, also feels underwritten-Tilly is going to destroy the town while dressed like a Barney's mannequin, which is great imagery but doesn't really do anything for me as I was still mad she didn't get an actual happy ending.  As a result, I liked a lot of The Dressmaker but not enough to recommend it.  Hemsworth and Winslet despite their (unacknowledged) age difference smolder throughout and haven't been this sexy in years (in Liam's case, ever), but that doesn't really make up for the nastiness of the film's final third.  Costumes are great, though.

Those are my thoughts on The Dressmaker, a film that I'm still not sure what the point was, but perhaps you can enlighten me in the comments.  Just start typing. :)

No comments: