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Ladies in Black - Film Review

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by Postcards from Shayne (subscribe)
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Published September 11th 2018
A universal tale with a uniquely Australian flavour
Ladies in Black, directed by Bruce Beresford, had its Australian premiere this week at the State Theatre in Sydney. Adapted from the 1993 bestselling novel, The Women in Black by Madeleine St John, the film is set in Sydney during the summer of 1959. It centres around the ladies working in the Ladies Frocks Department of fictional department store Goode's, based on Sydney's own David Jones department store in Elizabeth Street.

Ladies in Black Premiere State Theatre Sydney
Meet the Ladies in Black (Image Credit: Sony Pictures)

With its elegance and historic charm, there could be no more fitting venue than The State Theatre to host this premiere. There was a very large and well-dressed crowd in attendance, mingling with anticipation in the foyer, while some of the stars of the film walked the black carpet. To view the official black carpet photos, please click here. Guests were treated to glasses of champagne, boxes of Parlour Lane flavoured popcorn and bottled water in the theatre.

Ladies in Black Premiere State Theatre Sydney
The stunning State Theatre Sydney was the perfect venue to host the Australian premiere

Sony Pictures Executive Vice President, Stephen Basil-Jones was the first to take the stage to introduce the film which he described as "uniquely Australian", before handing over to producer and co-writer Sue Milliken and producer, Allanah Zitserman. Both Milliken and Zitserman alluded to the financial challenges faced in getting the film off the ground since the initial decision to make the movie was made in 1994. They went on to thank the many private investors who made the movie possible with Zitserman describing her role in the project as a "joyful journey".

Ladies in Black Premiere State Theatre Sydney
Stephen Basil-Jones from Sony, producers Sue Milliken & Allanah Zitserman and some of the stars of the film on stage

In attendance on the night were stars of the film Noni Hazlehurst, Susie Porter, Ryan Corr, Shane Jacobson, Alison McGirr, Celia Massingham and Luke Pegler. Each actor was brought on to the stage and introduced to rousing applause before acclaimed director Bruce Beresford spoke briefly about his friendship with author Madeleine St John, gaining funding from Screen Australia and the University of Sydney and his pride in the movie, cast and crew. Then it was on with the show.

The film was certainly a crowd pleaser with the Sydney audience and there is a lot to love about this story. At its essence, it is an Australian film, based on an Australian novel and telling a uniquely Australian story. But the themes of love, independence and equality are universal in nature.

Just as the Australian nation was facing enormous changes during this era - taking its first steps towards multiculturalism with post-war migration and the beginnings of gender equality - so too each character in the film is facing challenges and changes of their own.

Angourie Rice stars as shy school girl, Lisa, who takes a summer job at the prestigious department store, Goode's. She is facing the challenges of growing up, making her own decisions and becoming independent. At Goode's, she meets the "ladies in black", who will change her life forever.

Influenced by Magda, the sophisticated and vivacious manager of the high-fashion floor, Model Gowns, and befriended by fellow sales ladies Patty and Fay, Lisa is awakened to a world of possibilities. As Lisa grows from a bookish school girl to a stylish and positive young woman, she herself becomes a catalyst for a cultural change in everyone's lives.

The ensemble cast were all fantastic, but special mention must go to Angourie Rice who is outstanding as Lisa and Julia Ormond who captures the sophistication and humour of her character Magda, a post-WWII immigrant from Slovenia. I also really enjoyed the characters played by Ryan Corr and Rachael Taylor, Rudi and Fay, and their search for love.

Ladies in Black Premiere State Theatre Sydney
Julia Ormond shines as Magda in the Model Gowns department (Image Credit: Sony Pictures)

Ladies in Black is a charming and heart-warming story, staying true to the original novel, which shines a light on this particular era of Sydney's history. The story is told with subtlety and humour and will surely appeal across generations and become a much-loved favourite.

Released by Sony Pictures, Ladies in Black will arrive in cinemas from September 20, 2018. The film is rated PG.
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*Postcards from Shayne was invited as a guest
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Why? See a heart-warming new Australian film
Where: In cinemas from 20th September 2018
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