If a wayward tone takes your fancy then The Dressmaker certainly delivers – it's all over the place, veering from broad comedy to tragic drama without any shame. It keeps you on your toes all right and some will pleasingly respond to it. Not me, though; it's a mess; in my opinion
Winslet plays the sophisticate returning to her decrepit dustbowl Australian hometown in 1951, causing consternation to the locals who believe her responsible for a murder in her childhood. Weaving provides the comedy as the cross-dressing police inspector, Davis the tragedy as Winslet's mad mum, the family stead now a hovel. The dressmaker's designs prove a hit with the womenfolk however, opening up a series of overstuffed conflicts, the tone changing constantly with unbridled abandon.
There's so much going on that tedium never sets in thankfully, but that's hardly a compliment. Scarcely have you taken a breath with one character's tragic death when you are swiftly shoved on to the next melodramatic dilemma. It all becomes somewhat trying after the 90 minute mark. It's attractively shot though, the expansive plains nicely contrasted with the lonely undernourished town, and the ensemble cast are all of a piece, confidently channeling the frustrations and jealousies of their respective characters with effusive aplomb. Overall though, The Dressmaker just doesn't work – it's overlong and too diffuse to satisfy.