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The Dressmaker 

Shane J. Alliew

“Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d, Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d,” William Congreve, The Mourning Bride (Act III Scene 2).

Sometimes I am tempted to compare popular Bollywood so-called feminist based cinema to films like The Dressmaker; yet I refrain from doing so. Think of the classic Khoon Bhari Maang (starring Rekha) and her toss to the crocs, her subsequent return, magical transformation into a model and then her husband’s toss to the crocs. Mundane! Routine- so predictable.

But look at Jocelyn Moorhouse’s 119 minutes of The Dressmaker, based on the novel of the same name by Rosalie Ham. It already tell you what could you expect, when Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet) the lead character’s opening statement is “I’m back, you bastards.”

It sets the tone for us, that this is going to be one helluva revenge drama, which it is; but a rather sophisticated one, sweet, powdery, elegant, and fashionable; one which sets the eyeballs rolling up, snooty I say!

As a child Tilly was exiled from her small Australian town, being accused of murder or a rich, spoilt brat kid. Having spent her days in Paris, she now returns a full-grown woman, sewing machine tucked under her arm, her fashionable ideas and with revenge on her mind, to care for her ‘mad’ mother Molly (Judy Davis).

The townsfolk don’t like the idea about the witch and murderer having returned, but Tilly needs to know what really happened that day at Dungatar, flashes of which come to her in bits and pieces.

Well what can she best do while in the dry, dusty and outback hamlet? Best what she does- get her mother and house in order, dress the womenfolk up and sometimes lure Sergeant Farrat (Hugo Weaving) a closet cross-dresser with the beautiful lace and velvet, into giving her details of the forgotten case.

Well yes, also become the object of affection of the living-in-a-trailer hunk Teddy (Liam Hemsworth), her immediate neighbour, with his mentally challenged brother, mother and a battery of cousins.

Whilst the townsfolk are caught in the dilemma of should they accept the prodigal daughter or not, the others find her the much celebrated new fashion icon seamstress and everyone wants a part of her. Yet there are secrets so dark and skeletons tossed into many an attic, which seem to tumble out one after the other.

Tilly herself believes she is cursed a truth no sooner realised which actually breaks her from within, immediately as she had found true love; but as they say good things never last only the good memories do.

Winslet as the perfect seductress seamstress indulges our senses in more than the perfect creations she makes, completely in vogue; out from the glossy magazines and demands that her expertise be left upto her judgement as she creates glamorous swans out of ugly ducklings.

Will the past allow her to survive and pick up the threads of life which had been so unceremoniously snapped for her, or will they return to weave her into a cocoon of loneliness, despair and darkness than eats into her very being and soul.

I would say both- but out of the ashes rises the phoenix, literally and as her train chugs out.

Well here’s to those that believed that a dress can’t change anything, Till would say unto them, “Watch and learn…watch and learn.”


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