The Dressmaker full movie review - mind blowing on an intellectual level
THIS FILM IS INTENDED TO SHRED APART YOUR PRECONCEPTIONS!!! Do not go into watching this film with the idea that you are watching a tragedy. You may not connect with the majority of the characters.
They may not feel entirely three dimensional. You may not empathise with them and you are not intended to. It is extraordinarily true that you do not get what you expected from the trailer of this film. However, what you will get will most definitely blow your mind whether you appreciate the artistry of such postmodern blurring of genres or not. It is important to note that many of the critics (but by all means all) whom have given bad reviews to this film, do not entirely understand the essence of genre itself. Whilst the Aristotelian theory of genre concludes that genre is a fixed ridged entity, whereby texts must possess specific content, form or features in order to belong to a selected genre, modern theorists understand that genre cannot be a fixed entity as these conventions are too narrow to classify all texts under. Genre is an extremely dynamic concept and changes or evolves along with it's context. Therefore, genre now - as a taxonomy of works - classifies texts according to their intended purpose, recurring priori actions as well as it's relationship with it's audience. Whilst The Dressmaker may initially present itself as a western film or even a Gothic film, this does not mean that the film is in that genre! The Dressmaker is a COMEDY. Indeed it possesses many MODES of other genres, however, the film intends to SATIRISE the attitudes modeled by many in 1950's Australia. And this - my dear friends ... and foe - is EXTREMELY CLEVERLY DONE!!!!!
I have read many reviews of this film whereby the responder has said something along the lines of "this film doesn't even know what it is" or "The mix of genres is a mess" oblivious to the fact that this is the intended purpose of the film. The film combines elements of many genres and sub-genres including Gothic, western, thriller, crime, horror, tragedy, comedy, farce, satire, slapstick and black humour just to pinpoint a few. As a satire, the film uses absurd humour to highlight major issues within this 1950's society. Issues such as abuse of power, rape, deceit, sexuality, misogyny and hypocritical attitudes. The post-war 1950's is ostensibly known as a fruitful decade however Jocelyn offers a far more ignominious perspective on a time that was tainted with misogyny and hypocrisy, and the extend those guilty of such behaviours would go to in oder to save face. The essence of satire is to make you laugh as an audience and then make you question what you are laughing at! Whilst many have thought that this could only be the work of an uneducated lunatic, this mixture of generic modes is a quintessential example of the blurring lines between genres and adds an element of shock to narrative. The technique is intended to add an distinct absurdism to the storyline, and the deficiencies of the gross caricatures that are the townsfolk are distorted in order to draw attention to the cultural or social issues within society that are still contextually relevant today! Yes, the film exposes relics or icons that were not relevant to it's contextual time-frame, however these are intentional! They are supposed to make you question why the director has included them! Like how these issues are still relevant today on some level. Remember that everything placed in a film is intended to depict SOMETHING.
I am an 18 year old year 12 student currently studying the notion of Genre in Extension 1 English, and this movie literally blew me away! It is just so so so so clever! Like the way it includes familiar or traditional narratives such as the revenge plot of a western film or ugly duck makeover of Gertrude Pratt, to then take those familiar narratives in an ENTIRELY different direction, so that just when you believe you know what to expect, you are presented with something completely different. Or the way the characters names perfectly reflect their personalities. Mayor "PETTYman" etc. What is even more interesting to me is the set design, looking like an imposed western saloon set on an Australian outback scene. This almost gives the impression that we are witnessing some kind of bizarre human experiment. This is intended to distance the audience from the characters. None is quiet life-like enough to be relatable, except for Tilly and Molly Dunnage and perhaps Teddy. However, whilst tragedy is intended to make the audience empathise with multiple characters, comedy does not require this. Therefore the audience is supposed to feel obscured from many of the caricatures in the film, and they are not supposed to be realistic or relatable, rather they represent an ideology, attitude or perspective. It is this distance between the audience and the characters that allows the audience to make their own distinctions about the insane situations that occur within the film.
I could ramble endlessly about this film and it's effect on me, however instead I will just give a word of warning: When watching this film be aware of it's social and cultural context. Be aware of that which it is drawing your attention to, not only within the film but in the wider world. Be aware that the acting is exquisite that each character is intended to elicit a response from you. but most of all...be prepared. Be prepared to laugh, to question, to cry, to scoff and to be utterly shocked or even horrified. This film is an utterly beautiful piece of genius. Enjoy it thoroughly....or don't.