Then there’s the fact it’s impossible to categorise. Is it a drama? A tragedy? A romance? A brilliant black comedy?
Truthfully, it’s all of the above – and then some. Based on Rosalie Ham’s 2000 novel of the same name, the movie tells the story of dressmaker Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet).
Plagued by an alleged crime from her childhood, Tilly returns home to a tiny country town called Dungatar to right her supposed wrongs.
Unfortunately, the sniping, insular townspeople (including Tilly’s mother Molly, played by Judy Davis) aren’t so quick to forgive.
Aside from local footy hero Teddy McSwiney (Liam Hemsworth), Tilly’s neighbours bully her, reject and drive her to desperation in her efforts to connect with them.
Thankfully, she has her brilliant sewing skills to fall back on. Dress by beautiful dress, she tries to win them over – but will her hard work pay off?
Director Jocelyn Moorhouse has described the 1950s era movie as “Unforgiven with a sewing machine” and early reviews from overseas have praised its barmy take on a retribution tale.
“Winslet, a difficult actress to root against under any circumstances, has us in her palm from the moment she steps into frame, looking like an avenging dark angel bathed in ’50s noir shadows,” American publication Variety‘s review declares.
Here’s why it’s definitely worth watching:
1. The Australian touches
In how many big feature films can you hear the term “iced vovo” used? It’s refreshing to hear Australian accents, see Australian bush landscapes and pick up on references to Australian culture – even if they’ll go over the heads of an American audience.
2. The costumes
Given the name, you’d expect the outfits in this movie to be excellent, but they manage to exceed expectations. Stunning 1950s silhouettes in luxurious fabrics with exquisite beading and Melbourne Cup-worthy headwear make for glorious fashion eye candy.
3. Liam Hemsworth in his element
Forget these average American teen movies and gratuitous action flicks, the younger Hemsworth was born to play local hero Teddy McSwiney. An easygoing, big-hearted bloke with a twinkle in his eye, the 25-year-old perfectly embodies the light at the end of the tunnel of cynicism and cruelty in Dungatar.
4. Kate Winslet’s Australian accent
It’s impossible to fault Winslet’s take on our native tongue. It’s flawless and every Hollywood star should take notes.
5. Sarah Snook
Watch this space because Snook is fast becoming Australia’s next big export. This year she stars in Steve Jobs alongside Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet (again) and Vanity Fair featured her in their Vanities section, which tends to predict Hollywood’s next big star (Rebel Wilson was featured in 2012).
Snook plays Gertrude Pratt – an ugly duckling who becomes a swan thanks to Tilly’s needlework.
6. The black humour
The film’s approach takes a bit of getting used to. No topic is off limits for its scathing, witty social commentary – from infidelity to cross-dressing. Even in some of the most confronting or tragic scenes you might find yourself stifling a giggle.
7. Two Australian cinema greats having some fun
What do you get when you put Judy Davis and Hugo Weaving in a movie together? Brilliant comedic timing, dialogue delivery and character development. Davis as Mad Molly and Weaving as the cross-dressing Sergeant Farrat expertly provide most of the comic relief in the film.
8. The ending
With more twists than a packet of Twisties, it would take a seriously astute mind to predict the events that occur in the second half of the film. Unless, of course, you’ve read the book – which the film pays perfect tribute to.
On that note, you can buy the book here.