This wickedly comic drama, adapted from the bestselling novel by Rosalie Ham, stars the majestic Kate Winslet (The Reader, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) as a worldly dressmaker returning to the Australian backwater that exiled her. Seamlessly combining elements from films as varied as Dogville, Unforgiven, and Lasse Hallström’s Chocolat, The Dressmaker is a sumptuous, saucy, and scandalous tale of love and vengeance in the mid-1950s. It also has the most fabulous gowns this side of the red carpet.
Tilly Dunnage (Winslet) arrives in the small town of Dungatar like a gunslinger: broad-brimmed hat on her head, sleek pumps on her feet, trusty Singer sewing machine at her side. Driven away when she was just ten for supposedly committing a heinous crime, resilient Tilly found her way to Paris, where she trained under legendary designer Madeleine Vionnet. She has come back to look after her ailing mother, Molly (Judy Davis), but, with her beguiling, form-fitting dresses, she is soon turning heads at the town football game—most notably the one atop the broad shoulders of star player Teddy McSwiney (Liam Hemsworth).
When Tilly is hired to design and custom-make haute couture for the more rebellious local ladies, a battle line is drawn: on one side, those who luxuriate in Tilly’s progressive style and, on the other side, Dungatar’s conservative busybody contingent. As tension between these camps escalates, Tilly’s shadowy past becomes her enemies’ most potent weapon—but this fearsome fashionista has resolved to never let Dungatar get the best of her again.
Winslet exudes femme-fatale danger and sexiness—she is Clint Eastwood meets Rita Hayworth. And writer-director Jocelyn Moorhouse, working with co-writer P.J. Hogan in adapting Rosalie Ham’s novel, infuses The Dressmaker with a perfect blend of glamour and edginess, generating laughter and intrigue right up to the explosive finale.
“Moorhouse’s adaptation of Rosalie Ham’s 2000 novel may lead audiences to expect a primmer, more well-behaved movie based on its title alone, but that doesn’t mean it won’t have them in stitches.” (Justin Chang, Variety)
“This is a revenge melodrama with satin and netting, a dagger wrapped up in silk. The second Winslet’s Mildred Dunnage sets her sewing machine on the ground and snarls, ‘I’m back, you bastards,’ we’re delighted to hear we’re in for something fun.” (Amy Nicholson, MTV)