‘I’m back, you bastards,’
The Dressmaker is a novel by Rosalie Hamm and it is about a dressmaker called Tilly Dunnage who returns to Dungatar in the hope of looking after her ill mother Molly. She develops a friendship with Sargeant Farrat (played by Hugo Weaving in the film), the town’s policeman who likes to secretly dress up in women’s outfits and therefore challenges gender norms and she falls in love with Teddy McSwiney, a football player.
In terms of the book, the narrative is a bit all over the place. I can’t really keep track of many of the characters and I don’t really care about most of them anyway but I liked the humor and the vivid descriptions of the littlest things, such as the food and the clothing that they design and wear. Sargeant Farrat was a flexible character who was loved by everyone and I’m sure that Teddy is probably our ideal man.
As for the film, Kate Winslet was very stunning. People obviously loved her character Tilly because of the dresses that she made or they hated her because of what she did to the little boy when she was younger which they have never forgiven her for, including her own mentally unstable mother Molly (Judy Davis). The film clearly makes a statement about how your choice of fashion can change you with a few sequins. I think Liam Hemsworth was written in for sex appeal but he did a decent job as Teddy, Tilly’s toyboy. They missed out big chunks of the book but luckily the parts that they missed out were the unnecessary plotlines. William and Tilly’s childhood friend Gertrude’s relationship was explored a little more in the book but I wasn’t really bothered by it.
Hugo Weaving clearly loved wearing all the outfits in the movie as Sargent Farrat. He was loveable and he opposed gender norms. For instance, as the town’s only policeman, he would ideally be strict, masculine and nearly always in uniform but he was wearing all sorts of stylish, and usually women’s outfits and being popular with the people in the town. He would be the type of person who everyone would want to have as a friend. I liked the use of closeups of fashion items i.e shoes, dresses, to emphasise the importance of fashion.
Not the best film in the world but it does have its good moments, especially when Tilly can make the plainest of people look fantastic, and she can promise feather boas to an eccentric policeman. Tilly and Farrat’s characters were flawed, Tilly’s mother was a bit unstable and the I-killed-the boy storyline dragged a bit but it was a central plotpoint anyway. I might have to rewatch this movie to get details that I didn’t catch before.
The director Jocelyn Moorhouse also directed Hugo Weaving in his early movie Proof (1991) and it was good that they did another film together.