After the Campaign

After the Campaign: The Dressmaker

When I reviewed the campaign for The Dressmaker I thought the movie looked more or less alright. But I also felt there was something missing from the marketing that was important to the movie as a whole.

Kate Winslet stars as Tilly Dunnage, a woman who returns to her small Australian village after years of being away, the result of being accused as a child of being complicit in the death of another boy years ago. Now she’s back after building a successful career as a fashion designer and she wants to reclaim her reputation and care for her ailing mother (Judy Davis). The opinions of the townsfolk are fickle, though, going from forgiving to hostile depending on which way the winds are blowing. She gets involved with a local hunk (Liam Hemsworth) and finds that the curse she’s long believed she was under is hard to shake.

The marketing sold the movie as a whimsical romantic comedy about reclaiming one’s reputation and being true to yourself. But the movie wants to be more than that, even though it only commits to a deeper premise sporadically and unevenly.

That’s not the fault of Winslet or Davis, both of whom are terrific in their roles. It’s just the pacing of the story that pulls you between laughter and drama in a fairly disjointed way, without really earning the transition. It’s not that it’s a bad movie, it’s not. It’s just that it never fully commits to any one direction and therefore never goes deep in either direction.

As I suspected there is indeed a much darker storyline that lurks under the surface that’s presented in the trailer. I won’t spoil that but it contributes significantly to the shifts in tone that are scattered throughout the movie. There’s a moment where things get very dark very quickly and some characters seem to not bat an eye, continuing on as they were before with nary a mention of what’s happened.

The Dressmaker is worth seeing but be warned that it’s significantly different in tone than what the trailer sold to audience.

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