Tag Archives: Kate Winslet

The Dressmaker

Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage (played by Kate Winslet) is a slave to glamour. She’s besotted with expensive fabrics and stylish textiles and her haute couture creations have established her as a big name in the society design salons of Paris. But now, with her sewing machine under her arm, she’s come back to her small home town in rural Australia. Her memories have drawn her back as there are things she must put right. She trudges up the dirt track to her childhood home and finds her mother, Molly (by Judy Davis), dishevelled, down on her luck and in poor health. The house itself is in a sorry state of repair too. But the town hasn’t changed – the residents are all just as eccentric, judgmental and hypocritical as they always were. With long memories and holding their grudges forever, these people just never change. But they all have secrets too – and Tilly’s determined to right the wrongs of the past one way or another. One by one, she reconnects with her ex-neighbours – the effeminate Sergeant Farrat (by Hugo Weaving), the storekeepers – Alvin Pratt (by Shane Jacobson) and his wife Muriel (by Rebecca Gibney), their daughter Gertrude (by Sarah Snook) and the town simpleton – Barney McSwiney (by Gyton Grantley). The people do their best to go about their daily drudgery, but Tilly’s created a literally “colourful” distraction and it’s hard to ignore her. When she is courted by Barney’s brother, Teddy McSwiney (by Liam Hemsworth), Tilly is taken by surprise when she discovers feelings she thought were long buried beneath her guilt and shame. What was once a town scandal is slowly starting to unravel and the truth is coming out, once and for all, with all the people who told all the lies being found out along the way …

This is a delightful and entertaining movie. It’s a gentle comedy that offers several wonderful cameo performances by people who’ve been in much higher bankrolled films than this. Every character is unique and portrayed wonderfully by a member of the very strong ensemble cast – it’s full of surprises. Several notables are almost unrecognisable in these roles and they don’t seem to care – as Tilly’s mother, Molly, Judy Davis is wrinkled and downright grouchy for most of the movie; Gyton Grantley is endearing and heart-warming as Barney; Hugo Weaving plays the cross-dressing policeman to perfection and Shane Jacobsen’s absolutely made to play Alvin Pratt. I can’t go past the total eye-candy Liam Hemsworth provides either … just saying. There’s so many great performances amongst the cast it’s really unfair to pick out only a few. It’s a bit like “Under Milkwood” where the town boasts so many fascinating characters, each with a curious story in their own right. You will no doubt enjoy the Pettymans – Evan (by Shane Bourne) and Marigold (by Alison Whyte), along with the wonderful characters presented by Barry Otto, Sarah Snook, Julia Blake and Kerry Fox. It is based on the best-selling novel by Rosalie Ham , “The Dressmaker”. Rightly so, during the 2015-16 award season the movie has been recognised by the Australian Film Critics Association with a People’s Choice Award for Favourite Australian Film and gives individual awards for best Actress (Kate Winslet), Supporting Actor (Hugo Weaving), Supporting Actress (Judy Davis) and Screenplay (Jocelyn Moorhouse and PJ Hogan); the Australian Film Institute gives best Lead Actress (Kate Winslet), Supporting Actress (Judy Davis) Supporting Actor (Hugo Weaving) and Costume Design (Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson). The Australian Screen Sound Guild recognises it for best achievement in Sound Mixing and the Film Critics Circle of Australia awards Judy Davis with Best Actress – Supporting Role; along with Kate Winslet for Best Actress. Just enjoy it.

Made in 2015. Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse


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Posted by on May 18, 2016 in Movies


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Labor Day

Adele Wheeler (played by Kate Winslet) is trying to hold it all together. She’s had a few tough years with one thing and another. First, she meets the man of her dreams, Gerald (by Clark Gregg) and their marriage is blissfully happy. But a series of bitter disappointments leads to the erosion of their marriage and Gerald leaves Adele on her own to care for their young son, Henry (by Gattlin Griffith, Dylan Minnette and then Tobey Maguire). Adele has become reclusive and Henry, now a smart, insightful 13 year old, watches his mother struggle with her emotions and her health – he looks after her very carefully. His father, Gerald, is still around but he’s remarried and focusses on the new family far more than on him. Adele and Henry are close and inclusive, so the rest of the town don’t really know too much about them. Henry looks after the day to day needs of the house and Adele does what she can, but their life is tough. One day, a stranger (by Josh Brolin and Tom Lipinski) appears in town. Adele and Henry offer him some help. He invites himself into their home and they discover there’s been a prison break nearby and this man is the fugitive, Frank Chambers. Terrified, Adele and Henry do as they’re told and hope Frank will just take what he needs then be on his way. But, a long weekend is coming – Labor Day – and with the road blocks set up around town, Frank’s not going to get away without help from Adele and Henry. He hangs around the house and slowly they get to know him better. Adele and Henry are caught between their growing fondness for Frank and the law. Should they turn him in? or would their life be a whole lot better if he was part of it?

This is a nice movie. It’s a slow burn but worth the endurance as the story plays out. There are several layers here – the desolation of Adele after her life disappointments, barren relationships and deep love for her son; the awakening curiosity and adolescent innocence of Henry blended with his already well-developed empathy and emotional intelligence; the hard-edge of Frank which masks his own vulnerabilities and emotional needs. These characters are all really interesting and the performances are great. The peripheral characters are important too – Maika Monroe, Brooke Smith, Alexie Gilmore and Brighid Fleming all provide important contributions to the developing story.  Micah Fowler is very good as Barry also. Kate Winslet was nominated for a Golden Globe for her work here, which is understandable and much deserved. This movie is a surprise and the ending is good – it’s not what I was expecting, it’s better. Well done.

Made in 2014. Directed by Jason Reitman

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Posted by on November 4, 2014 in Movies


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One day in a New York park, two 11-year-old boys get into a fight. Ethan is hit by Zachary and Ethan’s tooth is knocked out. Later, Zachary’s parents, Alan and Nancy Cowen (played by Christoph Walz and Kate Winslet) visit Ethan’s parents, Penelope and Michael Longstreet (by Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) to address the issue and apologise on Zachary’s behalf. The meeting is cordially polite and all the expected things are said, but before Alan and Nancy leave the Longstreet’s home, the discussion takes several turns as, due to circumstances, the real characters of each of the four participants is revealed.

This is Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s play “God of Carnage” (French, originally “Le Dieu du carnage”), which presents the interactions of these four individuals within the confines of the Longstreet’s home. It cleverly explores and reveals each person’s views and expectations through a series of insignificant things that happen during the Cowen’s visit. At its heart is the incident between their sons, but issues about their own relationships and life expectations emerge through their conversations, which take the audience through a full range of emotions. Apart from the dialogue between the four, the telephone provides a key distraction and is the source of several contributing conversations – it’s also a welcome relief from the four. It is a little hard going for the audience – I found myself wishing they could just bring the discussion to a conclusion, but inevitably another situation arises to keep them together for a little longer. It is also one of those movies where I am not sure if it is meant to be a comedy or not. It is obviously far more effective as a play, however the performances of each character are marvellous – it’s one of those movies where it looks so much like real life that it seems mundane, but you know the actors have each done a marvellous job. I think it would have been a challenge and a pleasure for them to be involved.

Made in 2011. Directed by Roman Polanski

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Posted by on January 4, 2013 in Movies


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Beth (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) is travelling for business in Asia. After her final stop-over in Hong Kong, she returns to the US, meets an old friend in Chicago, then heads home to her husband Mitch (by Matt Damon) and their children. Beth is feeling the effects of jetlag coupled with a sniffle and a cough, but she finds this difficult to overcome and soon she becomes very unwell. Mitch rushes her to hospital, where her illness takes a turn for the worse, she has a seizure then unexpectedly dies. Her young son takes ill very soon after her and due to the speed at which the illness takes hold, he also quickly becomes comatose and dies. The officers at the Centre for Disease Control are increasingly concerned. Deputy Director Ellis Cheever (by Laurence Fishburne) assigns his best officer Dr. Erin Mears (by Kate Winslet) to the situation so that the matter is contained, the illness identified and public health is not compromised. She works with research scientist Dr Ally Hoxtall (by Jennifer Ehle) to get it handled. Unfortunately, the virus moves faster than they do – and in a double whammy a controversial blogger from Seattle and opponent of the CDC, Alan Krumwiede (by Jude Law), is highly suspicious and cynical about the actions of the CDC and rallies the community against them – at the same time publishing his own theories about the virus and how to beat it. By this time, Mitch is beside himself with anxiety and worries about the health of his teenage daughter Jory (by Anna Jacoby-Heron). He watches as his family and life seems to dissolve around him and resolves to do anything he can to protect his daughter. As you would expect, word of the virus gets out and the public are understandably concerned about their own safety – leading to everyone taking their own action, some unbridled panic and a threat of full blow anarchy across the community.

This movie is really good. Its almost a documentary and the viewing is realistic – people in fear, disease control working hard to understand and fight the virus, governments and organisations with their own political agendas.  It’s all in this and the key points are explored well.  We join the story on Day 2 of the developing outbreak and by the conclusion we have understood what happened on Day 1 to set the threat to public health on such a rapid roller coaster. The performances are good – Kate Winslet is stunning here and Laurence Fishburne is a pleasure to watch.  Matt Damon is as good as ever and although she dies very early in the story Gwyneth Paltrow is featured throughout the story in flashbacks about her actions, to try to piece the journey of the virus back together.  It’s particularly good where it depicts the situtation building the the community and the responses of the public and the health and safety authorities. Yes, it’s good – well done Steven Soderbergh once again.

Made in 2011.  Directed by Steven Soderbergh

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Posted by on September 18, 2012 in Movies


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Revolutionary Road

Everything is in its place in 1950’s suburban Connecticut, where Frank and April Wheeler (played by Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet) live in their nice house with their two children. After seven years of marriage, theirs is a conservative and predictable life in which Frank sets off for work each day and April goes about her household tasks, with occasional social interactions with friends and neighbours. Frank and April are accepting of their regular and stable world, but somehow they also feel that although they have resigned themselves to this life, they’re really deserving of something better – so they’re scornful of their friends’ and neighbours’ “little” lives behind their backs. Frank feels his job is mundane, so he puts little effort into it – he has much bigger ideas, but he’s never actually thought about what his passion in might be. April has long given up her real dream – to become an actress. To Frank’s delight, things at the office finally start to turn around and greater prospects are in the wind for him – just as April’s frustration gets the better of her and she gets the marvellous idea to sell everything and move to Paris – after all, this a long-time dream of Frank’s. She could find a well paying secretarial job and Frank could “find himself” and his passion!  At first Frank resists, but then he seems to warm to the whole idea – so their lives blossom with promise. They employ real estate agent Mrs Givings (by Kathy Bates), who is accompanied by her emotionally tormented son, John (by Michael Shannon).  Just when everything is falling into place, things start to change in the Wheelers’ lives – what does this mean about their imminent move to Paris? …. April just can’t bear the thought that it may not happen soon, so she decides to do whatever it takes to get herself out of her unhappy life …

This movie had the potential to become a drudge. It’s very hard to describe it to someone without it sounding like “just a story about a couple ‘going through the motions’ in a deteriorating relationship” – and who wants to watch that?  But it is actually so much more – and far more than I expected. The story is mostly told through Frank and April’s dialogue and primarily set in their home (which sounds like a bore), but it is developed very well with excellent dramatic construction and cinematography – which creates a compelling story. Both lead characters (Di Caprio and Winslet) are marvellous. It was after seeing this movie that I really changed my opinion about Leonardo Di Caprio’s talent as an actor. I had previously only seen him in “Titanic” (again alongside Kate Winslet), but since this, I’ve watched several more (The Departed, Catch Me If You CanBlood Diamond, The Aviator and J. Edgar), all of which showcase his depth of talent and ability to empathise to bring characters with intensity to the screen. Kate Winslet is luminous, beautiful and wonderful here. Kathy Bates is fabulous as the eccentric real estate agent Mrs Givings – but the real accolades go to Michael Shannon who plays her unstable and “teller of home-truths” son, John. He is a catalyst in this movie and he performs that role exquisitely – with great timing. In 2010, Michael Shannon received an Academy Award (Oscar) nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of John here.

The movie is an adaptation of the excellent first novel by Richard Yates which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1962. The timing and structure of the movie is wonderful – well done Sam Mendes.

Made in 2009.  Directed by Sam Mendes.

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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Movies


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Sense and Sensibility

In southwest England in the 1790’s, Elinor Dashwood (played by Emma Thompson) and her sister Marianne (by Kate Winslet) are young spinster sisters. Elinor is demure and sensible, whereas Marianne is expressive and passionate. They are both at the right age to marry (although Elinor is getting a little “long in the tooth”) and they spend the Season attending social occasions and greeting gentleman callers in the search for a suitable husband. When their father, Mr Dashwood, dies, he must leave the bulk of his estate to the son by his first marriage, so the young women with their mother – the second Mrs Dashwood (by Gemma Jones) – and younger sister Margaret (by Emilie Francois) are pushed out of their home and must rely on the support family for food and shelter. The sisters’ lack of fortune depletes their attractiveness for marriage and the parade of eligible bachelors narrows somewhat. During this upheaval, we meet the dashing but unprincipled Willoughby (by Greg Wise), timid but rich Edward Ferrars (by Hugh Grant) and steady but boring.Colonel Brandon (by Alan Rickman). The girls’ interractions with these gentlemen – all with the clear intent to create partnerships (rather than enjoy romance or love) – are played out over two or three social seasons. Of course, the path to true love doesn’t run smoothly for the sisters and we experience their emotional trials and challenges as they traverse the tricky societal norms, until each finally finds true love, a suitable marriage partner and the promise of happiness ever after.

This movie is a very good period adaptation of Jane Austen’s first novel. It is a delightful story and the characters demonstrate the wonderful dilemmas created by the social rules of the time, coupled with the real emotions that each must find some way to confine in order to achieve social acceptance. The script for this was written by Emma Thompson and she has done a marvellous job as the production has eloquent use of English language and some wonderful banter. Both Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet play their characters beautifully, with subtlety and naturalness. The three key males are very well done. Hugh Grant’s creation of Edward Ferrar’s is particularly heart-warming – he is such a caring and gentle soul (but this seemed to be a common role for him at that stage). Alan Rickman plays his character very straight and dry, which I assume is the way Austen has written him. Willoughby is a rogue and a heart-breaker and Greg Wise is great in this role.  All performances are good and the movie itself is made beautifully.

Made 1995: Directed by Ang Lee

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Posted by on March 6, 2012 in Movies


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Iris Murdoch is a well known and highly respected British writer. This movie tells the life story of Iris (played first by Kate Winslet and then by Judi Dench). We meet Iris as a strong-minded young academic teaching philosophy at Oxford University in the 1940’s. She meets John Bayley (by Hugh Bonneville then by Jim Broadbent), a fellow professor and socially awkward fellow, who seems totally opposite to the free-spirited and confident Iris. But theirs is a special match and they form a deep and enduring relationship. Through John’s memories, we learn about their relationship – how they met, their courtship, his total enchantment with the vibrant and highly intelligent young novellist Iris. They have a busy social life including Iris’ long time friend Janet Stone (by Penelope Wilton). Then we watch through his eyes as her writing career flourishes and then she slowly develops Alzheimer’s disease, until it transforms her into an unrecognisable Iris who is unable to function independently and needs John’s full time care, This journey is exhausting for John and he lives with the total frustration and utter heartbreak of it.

This movie is excellent. My heart went out to both Iris and John as they lived such a wonderful and happy life, then as their world started to change and gradually erode as Iris’ disease began to take hold of her. Judi Dench is just wonderful as Iris. In fact, the performances of all three – Kate Winslet (as the flirty, flightly, excited and highly intelligent young Iris), Judi Dench (as the mature, eccentric then confused and frightened Iris) and Jim Broadbent (the totally smitten, deeply passionate, involved, tenacious and enduring John) – are just superb.  They are all marvellous and Jim Broadbent totally deserves the 2001 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor here, he also won a Golden Globe award. Judi Dench and Kate Winslet are also both more than worthy nominees for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively. Judi Dench received a BAFTA award for her portrayal of Iris.

A really great movie.

Made 2001. Directed by Richard Eyre

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Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Movies


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