There’s More to the Dressmaker than Meets the Eye

Plot synopses of The Dressmaker describe this film as one in which a haute couture designer returns to her rural Australian town. Here she transforms the women of the town with her stylish creations, all the while wreaking revenge on those who, in the past, have wronged her, say the blurbs. Do not be fooled. This is no simple “revenge” story. It’s a fairly complex film about a woman, Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage (Kate Winslet), who searches for clarity in her past, and for love and acceptance in the present. And it’s about the unchanging, selfish cruelty of humans, particularly when those people work in a group.

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Judy Davis as Molly Dunnage in The Dressmaker. Photo: Ster Kinekor

The Dressmaker is also very funny. Characters come across as “stock” theatre ones, complete with an evil teacher, an OCD recluse, a simpleton (who speaks the truth), a snob, a cross-dressing policeman, and an impossibly good looking, good-natured lover (Teddy McSwiney – played perfectly by Liam Hemsworth). Even the setting looks like a stage, with Tilly and her mother’s house perched at the top of the hill, overlooking the one-street town below. The transformation of the women into (ridiculously) stylish fashionistas is amusing. Molly (a brilliant Judy Davis), Tilly’s mother, is a hilariously grumpy, whiskey-swigging, unsentimental old bat. And the competition that arises between Tilly and rival dressmaker, Una Pleasance (Sacha Horler), kept me giggling in my seat. But once again, do not be fooled. The humour turns black as evil truths about the people begin to emerge.

Basically, the storyline goes as follows: as a child, Tilly was accused of killing a young boy and was sent away. Molly’s mother remains in the town as an outcast. Her father is unknown. Tilly returns to fill in the blanks of her memory and in the process the real motives of the townspeople are revealed. I cannot say more than that for fear of giving spoilers. Suffice to say that this is a very interesting, very entertaining film and very worth watching.

PS: If I was an actress and got to choose my role I would have acted as Molly!

The Dressmaker is showing at Cinema Nouveau in South Africa. The film opened on 5 February 2016.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is not meaty enough

A Review by Brenda Daniels

In the first movie in this series (The Hunger Games) viewers were introduced to a terrifying future in which humans, struggling for basic resources, are sent to participate in a macabre game of life and death: the Hunger Games.

In the games Katniss Everdeen, well portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence, comes to the fore as a tough, genuine heroine. At the same time a love triangle is established between Katniss and fellow Hunger Games fighter, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), and childhood friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth).

In the second film, The Hunger Games Catching Fire, the plot thickens when Katniss Everdeen returns to the Hunger Games, and this time uses her fighting skills, not to kill her fellow participants, but to attack the overarching enemy, the Capitol. She does this by shooting and destroying the Hunger Games’ dome. Meanwhile, tension in the love triangle grows.

Unlike the first two films, the third, and highly anticipated The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is not a complete story. This is because, as the title explains, the full story, based on the third book in the series, has been broken into two parts. And it suffers for it.

Yes, there is a new twist; Peeta has been captured by the Capitol and is forced to speak out against the growing rebellion in the districts. As a result, in the midst of heavy fighting against the Capitol, District 12 launches a mission for his rescue. But this section of a story is not meaty enough to keep audience attention.

The love story too, wears a bit thin, with too many close-ups of Katniss in several chin-wobbling tearful scenes.

In an effort to milk too much from an interesting and unique series, the filmmakers have spoilt what should have been a fitting finale. Ending this film on a “cliffhanger” will not be enough to entice me to see the next (last?) one.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 opens at cinemas in South Africa on Friday 21 November.

An impression of the new Mockingjay - Katniss Everdeen by MartAiConan. Photo: Creative Commons.

An impression of the new Mockingjay – Katniss Everdeen by MartAiConan. Photo: Creative Commons.

This image can also be seen along with the artist’s other paintings at this website.

Josh Hutcherson plays Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games. Photo (Creative Commons) by Gage Skidmore.

Josh Hutcherson plays Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games. Photo (Creative Commons) by Gage Skidmore.