The Dressmaker (4 stars)

The Dressmaker

Fabulously funny, deliciously deranged Aussie dramedy, with Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet is an absolute goddess in this hilarious, moving and very dark Australian dramedy based on the bestselling novel by Rosalie Ham. Winslet’s Tilly Dunnage sashays back into the tiny, gawdawful, way, way, waaaay outback town of Dungatar in 1951. 25 years after being banished, the misfit child has become a sophisticated, exquisite woman who’s been working in couture in Paris. The ghastly, gossipy townsfolk are appalled and agog to see her back, and slow to realise that she has returned to exact comprehensive revenge for the lies and tragic wrongs of the past.

This is a lot like Hang ‘Em High, with Winslet as the Clint Eastwood character, but armed with a Singer sewing machine instead of guns. Tilly’s magical ability to transform people with creative, stylish makeovers is the weapon she uses against them as, one by one, they fall under the spell of her Dior and Balenciaga-inspired new look, even as secrets and scandal boil up. The ensemble is incredible: with Hugo Weaving as the town policeman delivering his campest turn since The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; Judy Davis priceless as Tilly’s deranged mum ‘Mad Molly’, bellowing a stream of screamingly funny one-liners; Kerry Fox as the evil queen bitch of the malicious populace; and Liam Hemsworth as the one decent, manly and, happily, drop-dead gorgeous guy in town.

Those who remember the offbeat delights that came out of Australia in the 90s will be thrilled to note that this is co-written by PJ Hogan (Muriel’s Wedding) with his director wife Jocelyn Moorhouse. And they will be prepared for the surreal tone to veer between wacky wit and cruel, heart-wrenching twists. It’s hard to predict whether this will catch fire like Muriel, Priscilla and Strictly Ballroom did back in the day, but it certainly seems bound for cult adoration. And, appropriately enough, the costumes are to die for.

General release from Fri 20 Nov.

The Dressmaker

  • 4 stars
  • 2015
  • Australia
  • 1h 58min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Jocelyn Moorhouse
  • Cast: Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving
  • UK release: 20 November 2015

Tilly Dunnage (Winslet) returns to her tiny, godawful outback town 25 years after being banished, bent on revenge and armed with a Singer sewing machine. Hilarious, moving and very dark Australian dramedy with an incredible ensemble (Weaving, Davis, Fox, Hemsworth); Winslet is a goddess. Surely set for cult adoration.