Kate Winslet stuns, serves up revenge with style in ‘The Dressmaker’

Ben King/Broad Green Pictures/Courtesy
"The Dressmaker" | Broad Green Pictures
Grade: B

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Move over Jack Dawson — Rose has found a new man, and his name is Liam Hemsworth!

Channeling her inner Miranda Priestly, Oscar winner Kate Winslet delivers a mesmerizing performance as Myrtle ‘Tilly’ Dunnage, a fierce fashionista who returns to her Australian hometown to care for her equally fierce mother and seek vengeance against those who vilified her for a murder she did not commit. Romance, dark humor, drama and high fashion ensue in Jocelyn Moorhouse’s “The Dressmaker,” a one-size-fits-all movie that will never go out of style.

With a Dior-inspired black coat, cherry red lipstick and sophisticated white gloves, the unconquerable Winslet opens “The Dressmaker” with one of the best lines only a well-dressed diva could express: “I’m back you bastards.” As she glamorizes her arid town of Dungatar with style and unapologetic shade-throwing, Tilly seeks to reconcile with her ailing mother, understand her dreadful misfortunes, face her childhood tormentors and capture the affections of Australian rugby player Teddy McSwiney, played by swoon-worthy hunk Hemsworth.

Though Hemsworth is no Leonardo DiCaprio, the blue-eyed actor manages to hold his own in his on-screen chemistry with Winslet. Whether a scene called for the two love interests to hold hands during a movie and gaze longingly into each other’s eyes or for Hemsworth to strip down to his boxer briefs with Winslet measuring his impeccable waist in awe for a suit fitting, Tilly and Teddy undeniably epitomize relationship goals.

Based off Rosalie Ham’s novel of the same name, “The Dressmaker” is not without its clichéd characters and moments. For starters, there is the closeted and flamboyant Sergeant Farrat, played by the charming Hugo Weaving. Orgasming at the touch of women’s designer clothing, Farrat was easily manipulated by Tilly and her exquisite fashions into doing her bidding. But with all that haute couture, who wouldn’t be?

Then there is Shane Bourne’s stomach-turning character Evan Pettyman, the deadbeat dad who left Tilly as a child and pursued other women. Evoking recent headlines of controversial public figures, Pettyman intoxicated many women before sexually assaulting them. One of these rape victims happened to be Molly Dunnage, Tilly’s mother.

Which leads to the true scene-stealing actor in this film, aside from Winslet: the acclaimed Judy Davis. Playing Tilly’s no-holds-barred mother, Davis triumphs as an unremorseful, dementia-having alcoholic that energizes the screen with childish behavior, humor and a whole lot of sass. Between telling her daughter to “fuck off” and throwing violent temper tantrums, one can’t help but love Molly. Despite her brazen-faced persona, Davis brings perfect nuance to her complex character. It is when Molly and Tilly have a heart-to-heart exchange about Tilly’s forced departure from her town and her rapist of a father that we see a compelling mother-daughter dynamic strikingly come to light.

Fittingly named, “The Dressmaker” centers on a woman who makes jaw-dropping dresses for the shallow and undeserving townspeople of Dungatar. From a Gisele maxi dress to a Gucci crocheted cotton beret, Winslet slays in every scene with the help of Australian award-winning costume designer Margot Wilson. In an interview with StyledBy Marie Claire, Wilson discusses her Dior and 1950s-inspired wardrobe for the film and why Winslet was a seamless fit for her vision.

“With Kate playing Tilly, she had that wonderful period figure, which was perfect for that time,” says Wilson in her interview with the fashion magazine. “So I kept very strong simple lines. And we also wanted to make Tilly’s character very different from the townsfolk. … When she came home to the town she needed to look separate from the town.” 

The way Winslet starts “The Dressmaker” is the way she ends it — paralleling Angela Bassett’s widely-referenced explosion in “Waiting to Exhale”— with a bang! As the movie’s tagline suggests, Winslet proves that revenge never goes out of style.

“The Dressmaker” is currently playing at Albany Twin.

Contact Jordan Joyner at [email protected].