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quinta-feira, 19 de novembro de 2015
The Dressmaker review: 'royally daffy'
Kate Winslet causes a stir in the Australian outback in this absurdly overripe melodrama
The Dressmaker, Jocelyn Moorhouse’s royally daffy adaptation of a novel by Rosalie Ham, builds itself around such a frivolous conceit you could almost call it brave: it's about Kate Winslet bringing stitchcraft to the 1950s Australian outback. It could have been a transfixing folly if, say, Baz Luhrmann had made it. Instead, it's destined to be a minor trinket in the curiosity box of Winslet's star vehicles – something turned over briefly for inspection, discovered to be paste, and popped back in for a rainy day.
Winslet is mysterious seamstress Tilly Dunnage, who steps off a blue bus in the opening minutes, plants her Singer sewing machine on the ground, and looks up at the dusty backwater that used to be her hometown. This is the fictional enclave of Dungatar, to which she’s returned after supposedly killing someone in childhood. There are scores to be settled, an amnesiac mother (Judy Davis) to be coaxed into lucidity, and a rugger-playing stud (Liam Hemsworth) to be stripped down to his boxers and ensnared. But most of all there are frocks. Dozens of them. Every scene’s a catwalk in the scrub, a Dior or Balenciaga-inspired photoshoot amid the tumbleweed. Soon the locals forget Tilly’s possibly-criminal past and bang down her door to get in on that va-va-voom.
The modest feat of managing a soft Aussie accent is well within Kate’s gift. Turning this film into a watchable bit of flannel is quite beyond her. She spends roughly half of it with one hand planted on her hip, the other pointing a lit cigarette imperiously at the sky. While the local lads are playing rugby, she swans up to the pitch like a scarlet empress on heat, and distracts all the players into tumbling all over each other. You hardly blink before she’s in some strapless, low-cut black number, peeling off elbow-length gloves like the conniving heroine in Gilda. The film’s major blunder – it’s got plenty of competition – is mistaking Kate Winslet for Rita Hayworth.
Meanwhile, virtually every working actor in Australia fights for scraps. The ensemble gives us a delightful village idiot called Barney (Gyton Grantley), Kerry Fox as a bitchy matron, Sarah Snook as a bullied wallflower gagging for a makeover.
Judy Davis is theoretically good value as the bitter old hag installed in a hilltop hovel, keeping company only with a possum and a lot of crusty make-up. It’s her very own Lady in the Vanperformance, only with a script to make Alan Bennett spit his tea out. “Who in their right mind would be up there raping Mad Molly?”, Hemsworth ponders, overhearing Davis being bundled by her daughter, clawing and screaming, into a bath full of dead insects.
Hugo Weaving, harking back indulgently to his Priscilla, Queen of the Desert days, gets a wearily obligatory gay supporting role as a police sergeant who wants to try on Tilly’s entire wardrobe. Your attitude to the movie may depend on whether Weaving admiring himself in a cornflower dress is something you’d pay to see. There’s a snort of laughter, perhaps, but the joke, like all the jokes, wears thin in a heartbeat.
As for the murder mystery, and the lurch into sudsy melodrama, and the torturously fumbling pace: none are assets. Even some of the costumes are flat-out ghastly. The premise might have a bizarre appeal, but it's hard to get behind Winslet's revenge-through-fashion escapade when the whole thing's falling apart at the seams.