Whenever the silly question arises of who I want to play me in a movie of my life, my answer has always been the same. Kate Winslet.
And then I think, "Oh, what a jaw-droppingly boring movie that would be. I'm so sorry, Kate, you don't deserve such mediocrity."
In the meantime, I'm happy to watch her light up the screen in other roles, such as her brilliant performance as Myrtle "Tilly" Dunnage, in The Dressmaker.
Based on the Rosalie Ham novel of the same name, The Dressmaker is set in 1951 in the tiny country town of Dungatar, where prejudices, gossip and secrets are rife. Tilly Dunnage's unexpected appearance after a 25 year absence causes an uncomfortable and somewhat hostile reaction from the townsfolk, not the least of which is from her own mother, "Mad" Molly (Judy Davis).
With an opening line of, "I'm back, you bastards", you know from the outset that Tilly has not returned to her childhood home meekly.
After working under expert tutelage as a dressmaker throughout Europe, Tilly's homecoming transforms the lives of her frumpy neighbours, who discover that clothes maketh the men notice the women. Whilst appearing to be happy enough, for a price, to help the women improve their wardrobes and in turn, their love lives, Tilly's ultimate reason for reconnecting with her ostracised mother and the eccentric Dungatar residents is to unlock the confused memories of her own past, and answer one question... Is she a murderer?
As her relationship with her mother improves, thanks to bonding over fabric and pins, Tilly finds she has two more allies in her quest for the truth; Sergeant Farrat (Hugo Weaving), who has a secret of his own, and Teddy McSwiney (Liam Hemsworth), whose family looked out for Molly after the town had turned its back on her.
And if Tilly can exact some revenge while dismantling the town's web of secrets and lies, all the better...
I truly loved this movie. It made me laugh, and it made me cry. Director, Jocelyn Moorhouse, likens the movie to a "magical realism Spaghetti Western, kind of like Unforgiven with a sewing machine". She has stitched this quirky, funny, sad, unique, and dark story into a big screen success. It had slapstick, clever comedy, heartbreaking drama, excellent dialogue, and brilliant performances by a cast which read like a who's who of Australia's most talented actors; Shane Bourne, Rebecca Gibney, Shane Jacobson, Sarah Snook, Barry Otto, Sacha Horler, Julia Blake, Gyton Grantley... just to name a few.
Weaving is delightful, Hemsworth is warm and lovable (and genetically blessed, hubba hubba), but the key for me is the presence and chemistry of Kate Winslet and Judy Davis. Their scenes together left me breathless, either with laughter or tears, and with a lot of empathetic understanding. Their portrayal of the volatile, but ultimately loving relationship between an ailing mother and a frustrated daughter, both as proudly stubborn as each other, was pure gold and fabulous to watch.
And Kate's Australian accent was the best I have ever heard by a non-Aussie. Totally nailed it.
She SO HAS TO PLAY ME.
The Dressmaker opens Australia wide on October 29, check your local guides.
Thanks to Universal Pictures for the viewing.