Sarah Snook. Remember that name. She’s an Australian actress I first noticed in last year’s twisty time-travel thriller Predestination. Sadly, I can’t really talk about that movie in any kind of detail without giving too much away because the best way to watch it is going in knowing nothing at all. Plus, her character’s identity would be considered a huge spoiler. Just trust me when I say Snook steals the movie from the nominal star, Ethan Hawke. She was also the lead in the slightly old-fashioned micro-budget horror flick Jessabelle last year, where she played a Louisiana woman recuperating in her possibly haunted childhood home after a serious car crash put her in a wheelchair. Not surprisingly, she’s the best part of the movie, appearing in just about every single scene, beautifully humanizing the psychological terror slowly creeping into the story.
Could she be the best part of The Dressmaker, writer and director Jocelyn Moorhouse’s (Proof, A Thousand Acres) upcoming adaptation of the Rosalie Ham novel of the same name? Eh, I’m not so sure this time just because I’m frankly unsure of what to make of this movie in general. Kate Winslet, as summarized by Vulture, “stars as a fancy couturier who returns to her childhood home in the Australian country to care for her ailing mother, played by Judy Davis. She left after people thought she had killed a young boy, and is back to seek revenge on her accusers, while also performing some She’s All That magic on the townspeople.” Indeed, as you’ll see in the trailer the Plain Jane character, named Gertrude Pratt, who is on the receiving end of a Winslet makeover is played by Snook:
They filmed in Australia, which is probably why outside of Winslet the primary cast is entirely Australian, and this is actually Moorhouse’s first new movie in 17 years. She’s been developing it for a long time, telling FilmInk last year, “I’ve waited years to make this movie. It’s about my favorite subjects: revenge, love and creativity.” Vulture claims Moorhouse has described this as “Unforgiven with a sewing machine.” By setting it in the Australian countryside, it certain evokes certain imagery from westerns, although it’s actually set sometimes in the 1950s. Plus, as producer Sue Malin told ScreenBlog, “The costumes and the irony of the middle-of-nowhere setting enhance the element of transformation that is so essential in a great film.”
Plot-wise, I am reminded more of any number of other movies in which an outsider brings positive but controversial change to a small community, like Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon in Pleasantville or Juliette Binoche’s chocolate shop owner in Chocolat (I guess that sorta makes Liam Hemsworth The Dressmaker’s Johnny Depp). I just don’t know that I’ve ever seen that scenario where the person opening the eyes of a sheltered, traditional populace is doing so as an act of revenge. It’d be like if Freddie Prinze Jr. made over Rachel Leigh Cook in She’s All That because her dad secretly killed his little brother. What? That doesn’t make any sense! And right now I’m waiting to see more of The Dressmaker to make total sense of it. But at this point I am on board with anything Sarah Snook does.
It’s also worth pointing out that this is being distributed by Universal Pictures, and they are on a roll right now after Fifty Shades of Grey, Furious 7, Jurassic World and Minions. They can afford to take a swing on picking up an Aussie indie like The Dressmaker.
The Dressmaker is due out October 22.