Review: Kate Winslet makes ‘The Dressmaker’ all her own

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

In the delicious, wonderfully odd Australian revenge tale “The Dressmaker,” Kate Winslet is a wild-card clothier who shows up in her home town to settle a childhood score.

From the moment Winslet opens the film, dragging a cigarette and seething “I’m back, you bastards” as she pulls up in her outback town of Dungatar, “The Dressmaker” is off to the races.

And what a strange race it turns out to be.

Winslet plays Tilly, who left town many years ago with a dark secret. She arrives home, wielding her sewing machine like a shotgun, and begins taking care of her mother (Judy Davis), who lives in squalor atop the town’s hill.

Among the townspeople with whom she crosses paths are a cross-dressing cop (Hugo Weaving) and a handsome young footballer (Liam Hemsworth).

They become part of her plot to discover her past, as she gives many in town a stunning makeover along the way.

Jocelyn Moorhouse, directing her first film since 1997’s “A Thousand Acres,” fashions “The Dressmaker” as a bizarre little ode to her Australian homeland. Its tonal peculiarities may present problems for U.S. audiences, but if you’re able to catch its wave, it’s quite a wild ride.

Winslet is allowed to flex her seldom-utilized humor muscles, and she’s a barnburner in a fun, juicy role.

The script (by Moorehouse and P.J. Hogan, based on Rosalie Ham’s novel), is a bit lengthy, and takes a few extra turns rather than coming to a clean stop. But there’s plenty to admire here, especially if your taste is tailored to the unusual.

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Twitter: @grahamorama

‘The Dressmaker’


Rated R for brief language and a scene of violence

Running time: 118 minutes