Guest Review: The Dressmaker (2016)

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The Dressmaker tells the story of an outwardly successful middle-aged woman named Tilly (Kate Winslet) who returns home to rural Australia, after having been ostracized from the town as a young girl. Most of the small town, including her own mother (Judy Davis), is not pleased to see her back. Regardless, she makes her entrance as colorful and fiery as possible and forges a place for herself despite the whispers and hostility of the townfolk.

The cinematography is completely gorgeous. The story is set in Dungatar, a part of Australia that evokes a sense of Oklahoma circa the dust bowl or the kind of Kansas that only exists in the Wizard of Oz. The barren dirtiness of the landscape is showcased in stark shots of decrepit buildings, dirty streets, and naked trees against empty skylines. This very deliberate setting eventually becomes the backdrop to characters wearing bold, colorful dresses in a way that seems to visually applaud fashion for being powerful and interesting while also admitting that high fashion might just be completely ridiculous.

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I hate to be cliché about it, but The Dressmaker is an emotional rollercoaster. The fulcrum of the story is the relationship between a mother and daughter, but there are competing sub-plots of a murder mystery and a romance which occasionally usurp the story of mother/daughter storyline entirely. The overall tone of a black comedy allows the film to push boundaries and upset audience expectations regularly. Moments that the audience expects to end happily wind up being the introduction to the next tragic theme and the darkest of moments are interrupted by well-placed moments of comedy.

The talent in this film is extraordinary. Every character is a little bit larger than life, caricatures that are just reasonable enough to make an audience feel in on the jokes without ever suspending their disbelief. The script lends itself to stand out performances by all, but especially by Winslet, Davis, and Hugo Weaving.


One of my favorite casting choices was Liam Hemsworth as Winslet’s love interest. Hemsworth is a solid fifteen years younger than Winslet, so the casting is an obvious response to Hollywood’s habit of usually casting love stories with large age differences in reverse. Much of this movie’s strength lies in similar subtle feminist moments: the film reverses the genders in many of Hollywood’s storytelling habits. For instance, it is a widely criticized reality that women exist almost exclusively as love interests or mothers in Hollywood. In The Dressmaker, the opposite is true. The primary characters of the story are women and most of the men exist only in relation to their partners. Despite this, The Dressmaker does not exist in a parallel universe where gender roles are reversed: women are still primarily homemakers and men have careers. It is merely the shifting of perspective that gives us a world made up of women with deep personal lives.

The Dressmaker also excels in its acknowledgement of women who suffer at the hands of men, often their own partners. One woman’s husband is a notorious cheater who drugs and rapes her regularly. Another woman’s husband is a wife-beater and refers to most of the women in the town in a derogatory way, which the script suggests is probably because of his own perversions. The lovely thing about all the dark stories about abuse is that even though they are gross, they are understated in a way that is very true to life.

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There is a love story in the middle of the movie, which briefly disrupts the other narratives and might be the best tongue-in-cheek criticism of Hollywood romance that I have ever seen. Winslet’s character avoids her romance with Teddy (Hemsworth) for as long as possible, invoking every manifestation of the hard to get narrative that we have been fed for the last fifty years. Tilly runs barefoot down a dirt road, only to be swept of her feet by Teddy when he chases her down in his car. Tilly measures a half-naked Teddy for a suit, getting tantalizingly close while he explains that the woman he loves (her) does not want him. Teddy wakes up one night with Tilly standing at his bedside with a lantern. The couple sits atop a silo with a picnic dinner and they stare at the stars together. Every last overdone and gooey detail is there. Every romantic moment is just overplayed enough that the audience understands that everyone involved in the creation of this story understands exactly how syrupy it is. It’s still cute. We’re just finally getting the story from a group of writers who know that it’s a little too cute and have fun with that.

The value of a female-led narrative film like this one cannot be understated. Directed by Australian filmmaker Jocelyn Moorhouse, this is a film to see in theaters and in groups. The gasps and groans and laughter of the people in the theater with me were literally of a different tenor than usual, which was a wonderful, surreal experience. If you want to see a film that completely understands (and really probably loves) Hollywood, but wants to approach it with a sense of humor and an inkling for progress, this film will not disappoint. The acting is superb, the story is full of surprises, and the jokes are both subtle and in your face. This is not a film to miss.

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hollyHolly P. is a twenty-something millennial who enjoys shouting at people on the internet, riding her bicycle, and overbooking her schedule. She prefers storytelling that has a point and comedy that isn’t mean. Her favorite movies are Aladdin, the Watchmen (even though the book was way better), and Hot Fuzz.  She’s seen every Lord of the Rings movie at least a dozen times.  You can follow her @tertiaryhep on twitter or @hollyhollyoxenfreee on Instagram. She’s also on Tinder, but if you find her there she’ll probably ghost on you because wtf is dating in the 21st century.


Have you seen ‘The Dressmaker’? Well, what did you think? 

SEPTEMBER 2016 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

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Autumn is in the air! It’s been a rather cool September, especially the past week, but I LOVE the crisp Fall air as the leaves are turning. In fact we’re going to drive up north this weekend to see some gorgeous Fall foliage.

Well September have been quite eventful, thanks to Twin Cities Film Fest special screening of the indie drama The Trouble With the Truth. It was so fun to get to meet (and interview) Lea Thompson and director Jim Hemphill. The film is available on Amazon Prime and it’s got a stellar reviews, so check it out!

Here are movies I saw this month:

New-to-me Movies

queenofkatwe

Queen of Katwe

bridgetjonesbaby

Bridget Jones Baby

troublewithtruth

The Trouble With The Truth

manknewinfinity

The Man Who Knew Infinity

sully

Sully

The Nice Guys

elvisnixon

Elvis & Nixon

dressmaker

The Dressmaker

birthofnation

The Birth Of A Nation

magnificentseven

The Magnificent Seven


October press screenings include The Girl On The Train, The Accountant, The Space Between Us, and Certain Women. Oh and of course a slew of films screening at TCFF! So excited about the lineup this year, so I’ll definitely be watching a ton of great films in October!


I’ve been working on a list of films by female directors I can’t wait to see, so be on the lookout for that in the next couple of weeks!


 Rewatches

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) | Jane Eyre (2011)
The Saint (1997) | Phantom of the Opera (2004) | Belle (2014)
Beauty & The Beast (1991)| Le Soleil Noir (Louis XV doc, 2009)

Naturally most of my re-watches revolves period dramas 😀

My hubby got me the 25th Anniversary edition of Beauty & The Beast so of course I watched it as soon as it arrived in the mail. It made me look forward to the 2017 live action version even more just to see how they’d pull it off!


MOVIE OF THE MONTH

Queen of Katwe

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This film is such a pleasant surprise. A based-on-a-true-story that’s uplifting and inspiring and so full of heart, yet it’s not afraid to show the darkness of the protagonist’s story. My full review will be up next week!


Well that’s my viewing recap of September. What’s YOUR favorite film of the month?

Everybody’s Chattin + Question of the week: 7 films to see at TIFF 2015

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Happy Tuesday everyone! Well I’m still high from the pure adrenaline rush of watching Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Boy was than fun! I’ll post a full review but in the meantime, here’s my initial reaction:

Ok so about those links…

Michael reviewed a book on a topic I’ve been fascinated by lately, The Cartel by Don Winslow

Keith reviewed my new comedy favorite What We Do in the Shadows. My own review should be up later this week!

Margaret and Mark posted more favorable reviews on Ant-Man

I always look forward to Abbi’s mini reviews on Film Friday for recommendations and what to avoid

One of my fave blog series is The Many Faces Of by Nostra, this month he shone the spotlight on mo-cap maestro Andy Serkis

Last but not least, if you haven’t already, check out Jordan’s Philip Seymour Hoffman Blogathon to celebrate the phenomenal work of the late thespian

There are still so many of PSH’s films I need to see, one of them is Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, reviewed by Cindy


Time for question of the week!

TIFF15

I was gonna make this a separate post but y’know what, I don’t want to wait another day so I’ll just hit two birds with one stone w/ my community blogging series. The TIFF 2015 full lineup has just been released today, so in case you haven’t read the list, you can hit up The Film Stage or Variety to see what films have been selected.

Wish I could return to TIFF again, it’s been ten years since I visited Toronto in 2005, which was quite an experience. Now, obviously if I were there I’d try to see as many films as I could, but say you only had seven films you could get tickets for, which ones would you see? Here are my seven picks:

Demolition

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Naomi Watts

An investment banker, struggling to understand his emotional disconnect after the tragic death of his wife, begins to tear apart his life in an effort to see where he went wrong and is ultimately rescued by a woman he meets in a chance encounter.

Jake G. can’t do no wrong these days and the premise sounds really intriguing. I’m always intrigued by a human drama type of stories, something that could happen in real life, even people around you. Apparently the screenplay for this film was featured in the 2007 Blacklist; a list of the “most liked” unmade scripts of the year.

Eye in the Sky

Director: Gavin Hood
Cast:
Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi and Iain Glen

London-based military intelligence officer Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) is remotely commanding a top secret drone operation to capture a group of dangerous terrorists at their safe-house in Nairobi, Kenya. The mission suddenly escalates from a capture to a kill operation, when Powell realizes that the terrorists are about to embark on a deadly suicide mission.

Anything with Dame Mirren is automatically in my must-see list, and this sounds like a really juicy role for her! Plus Alan Rickman AND Iain Glen? I’m SO there. Nice to see Captain Philips‘ Barkhad Abdi is still getting jobs in Hollywood.

LEGEND

Director: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Tom Hardy, Taron Egerton, Emily Browning


The true story of the rise and fall of London’s most notorious gangsters, brothers Reggie and Ron Kray, both portrayed by Tom Hardy in an amazing double performance. LEGEND is a classic crime thriller that takes audiences into the secret history of the 1960s and the extraordinary events that secured the infamy of the Kray twin.

One Tom Hardy is good enough, but TWO? A dual role is always intriguing and if there’s one actor who can pull it off it’s Tom. Plus I like Taron from the Kingsman movie.

Victoria

Director: Sebastian Schipper
Cast: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski


A movie shot in a single take about Victoria, a runaway party girl, who’s asked by three friendly men to join them as they hit the town. Their wild night of partying turns into a bank robbery.

I actually just saw the trailer this weekend. Whoa, it looks like an intense and wild ride, I have no idea how they pulled off doing this in a single take!

Sicario

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro


In Spanish, Sicario means hitman. In the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, an idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elite government task force official to aid in the escalating war against drugs. Led by an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past, the team sets out on a clandestine journey forcing Kate to question everything that she believes in order to survive.

Miss Blunt is another actress I’d watch in practically anything, and the drug war has been on the news so much lately which adds to the intrigue.

Spotlight

Director: Tom McCarthy
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup.

The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

Ruffalo AND Keaton in a film together? That alone is a reason to see this despite the icky subject matter. Great supporting cast too, Stanley Tucci is solid in everything he’s in.

The Dressmaker

Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse
Cast: Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving, Sarah Snook

A glamorous woman returns to her small town in rural Australia. With her sewing machine and haute couture style, she transforms the women and exacts sweet revenge on those who did her wrong.

Sarah Snook!! I immediately want to see this because of her as she impressed me so much in Predestination. It’s been ages since I saw Winslet in anything, and the premise intrigues me. LOVE Hugo Weaving too, but the casting of Liam Hemsworth worries me though. Yes he’s hunky but the pretty boy simply can’t act.

Other notable TIFF screenings:

I’m anticipating Cary Fukunaga’ Beasts of No Nation too, which I’ve mentioned here, but since it will premiere on Netflix I’d rather watch it at home. Starring Idris Elba in the role of Commandant, a warlord who takes in a child soldier and instructs him in the ways of war.

Here’s the trailer:

I also have to mention Brooklyn which screened at Sundance earlier this year. It stars Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey, a young woman from Ireland sent across the sea to find a new life in the land of opportunity. My friend Iba saw it at Sundance and really liked it, check out her review.

 


So tell me, if you could only choose SEVEN films to see at TIFF this year, which films would you get?