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Film / The Dressmaker

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A 2015 Australian film based on the book by Rosalie Ham, starring Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Judy Davis, and Hugo Weaving.

In 1951, Myrtle "Tilly" Dunnage (Kate Winslet) returns to her childhood home of Dungatar in rural Victoria to take care of her elderly mother, known to the town as "Mad Molly" (Judy Davis). She was taken away at ten, accused of a crime she cannot remember, and has since worked in Melbourne, Paris, and London as a highly trained and skilled seamstress. However, the town has not forgotten the murder that she cannot remember. Her sewing skills regain her some favour with the townspeople, but few seem to actively like her. One of the few is Teddy McSwiney (Liam Hemsworth), star of the Dungatar football team; another is Sergeant Farrat (Hugo Weaving), the local cop with an interest in fashion.


As Tilly settles back into rural life, her relationships and the relationships of those around change and grow, but throughout, she is fearful of a curse that she believes she has, leaving her loved ones in danger and her alone...

This film contains examples of:

  • 1-Dimensional Thinking: Averted with Tilly, who moved out of the way when Stewart planted her against a brick wall intending to directly headbutt her. This caused him to break his neck upon missing and hitting the wall.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Played with Marigold. Marigold's method of dispatching her cruel and abusive husband is much more gruesome than in the book. On the other hand, it is done in the heat of the moment so it's not like her personality changed much, just what she had available at the moment. Also many would agree that he had it coming for a long time.
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  • Camp Straight: Played With in the case of Sergeant Horatio Farrat, who is very flamboyant, but he keeps it in private while performing his duty and acting absolutely normal in public. Evan Pettyman blackmailed him on this in the past. By the end of the story, Farrat decides to take the blame for drug trafficking as a way to both protect Tilly and to compensate for his weakness in the past. When he's arrested, he wears a flashy matador suit, while handling over everyone the drawings Pettyman used to blackmail him, in a final act of defiance against the town's clique.
  • Costume Porn: As is expected when the main character is a trained haute couture designer and seamstress.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Molly, Tilly's mother, turns out to be absolutely brilliant when she's finally sober and pissed. She sets up a masterful plan to make the entire town of Dungatar pay for what they did and who they are.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Ho boy... At least most of those are also Karmic Death:
    • Teddy jumps into a silo to impress Tilly. Unfortunately, the silo was filled that day with sorghum, so he ends up trapped inside and slowly suffocates.
    • When Stewart Pettyman was trying to hurt young Tilly, he ends up ramming his head straight into a brick wall at full running speed, breaking his own neck.
    • Marigold cuts Evan's Achilles tendons. This makes his legs completely useless, while he bleeds to his death, crying for mercy he never had.
    • Percival Almanac drowns in a tiny pond behind his house, unable to stop without his wife's help. While the pond is barely knee-deep and the size of a puddle, he had too many different ailments to get out of it by himself.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Tilly has seemingly gained the closure she wanted and seems ready to move on and start a new life with Teddy. Then he dies and, later, so does her mother while Sergeant Farrat, the only other person in town who likes her, allows himself to be arrested to protect her.
  • Destroy the Abusive Home: Tilly was fiercely bullied, falsely accused of murder, and forced to leave Dungatar, and she is shunned and bullied on her return. She sets the entire town on fire. While it was empty it must be said, but the citizens' reactions when they return are absolutely epic.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: During an AFL game, Myrtle removes her scarf and gloves to show more skin and distract players.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The entire premise of the story is Tilly's return to her rural town and making sure everyone who wronged her or mistreated her mother suffers. Boy, they suffer...
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Molly turned to the bottle after Tilly was sent away from the town, eventually turning into a dysfunctional alcoholic and gaining "Mad Molly" nickname. She eventually gets better with the combination of her daughter's care and contempt toward Dungatar's population .
  • Evil Is Petty: While some people from Dungatar never actively do anything truly heinous, most of them are just sickeningly evil, precisely due to how petty their actions are. Evan Pettyman, one of the worst, even has a fitting surname.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Of the primary culprits only Beulah survives the whole chain of revelations. Which makes her even more unlucky, since she will likely live for quite a few years blinded and spend the rest of her miserable days, crippled and trapped in a sanatorium. She has been so vile that it still feels like a fitting punishment.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Despite being set in rural Australia, it still features gorgeous 1950s fashion.
  • Gothic Horror: No supernatural elements, though, unless you count Tilly's belief that she's cursed.
  • Ironic Echo: Early on, Tilly was trying to feed Molly soup. After Teddy dies and Tilly is too depressed to even eat, Molly starts feeding her and talking about the past. For extra points, the soup looks identical.
  • Job Title: Tilly's occupation. This initially grants her some respect with the townsfolk. Emphasis on "initially".
  • Let the Past Burn: Her lover is dead, her mother is dead, and the only remaining townsperson she got along with has been arrested, so Tilly burns her mother's house alongside her sewing supplies as well as the rest of the town, and then leaves - presumably forever.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Evan Pettyman is Tilly's father.
  • Marital Rape License: Evan Pettyman gives his wife Marigold a tonic to "help her sleep" and proceeds to penetrate her after making sure she passes out.
  • Meaningful Name: Evan Pettyman is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. And so was his son. This eventually gets them both killed. Averted with Marigold, who simply carries her husband's surname.
  • Mood Whiplash: Frequently.
    • Teddy and Tilly have consummated their relationship, are talking about getting married and leaving Dungatar forever... and then Teddy jumps into a silo full of sorghum and suffocates.
    • Any time Molly interrupts a seemingly tender moment between Tilly and Teddy.
    • The final act of the film goes back and forth between pure tragedy and pure comedy, often within the same scenes.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Though the film is quite comedic, the trailer does not mention a lot of the drama.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Everyone who eventually sided with Tilly ends up dead (Teddy, her mother, though not as a result of siding with her) or in prison (Sergeant Farrat which was more of a sacrifice as a way of atoning for his past failures).
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: Tilly's mother and lover are both dead, but she has sought revenge on the town that mistreated her. It is left open whether she will find happiness in the future but getting closure was a start.
  • The Power of Love: Subverted. While love, friendship, and being good is important and initially appear to work for Tilly, they are just not enough to deal with people like the citizens of Dungatar.
  • The Power of Hate: Molly was already getting better due to Tilly's return and care, but it's the hate and desire for revenge for all the shit her family had to go through that ultimately brings her back to sanity.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Trudy Pratt, and how.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: The film progressively gets less and less funny, until it turns into straight-out tragedy... after which it turns into really Black Comedy in the final act.
  • Smoking Is Glamorous: Despite her being almost a chain smoker, it's played straight with Tilly.
  • Southern Gothic Satan: Tilly comes back to the town that tormented her as a child and unjustly blamed her for murder. With her inhuman sewing abilities and TARDIS-like bag that contains infinite material and shoes, she dresses up the town in couture, and by the end of it multiple people are dead, arrested, in asylums, or otherwise ruined, the townfolk are humiliated in the local play competition, and Tilly has burned the town down.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Tilly apparently has also unlimited storage for it, too. It reaches comedic levels early on when her single suitcase couldn't carry even the shoes she wears at this point of the story, not to mention her clothes.
  • Where I Was Born and Razed: Tilly pours petrol throughout her mother's house and on a bolt of fabric she has rolled down to the town, sets the house on fire, and leaves, with the entire town burning in her wake.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Sergeant Farrat, though downplayed. He shows a great interest in fashion and seems to crossdress in private (something Evan Pettyman blackmailed him with), but other than that, he is a fairly normal guy and a dedicated police officer.