Ladies in Black

Aida Vucic | 15/09/2018

We've all heard about the opulence that once was the department store experience. The illustrious ladies who doted on our every whim; their hair perfectly quiffed, lips finished with a coat of red lipstick and of course, dressed all in black. Ladies in Black takes us back to the heyday, when shopping was an experience rather than simply a matter of a few clicks.


It’s the busiest time of the year and Goodes has just employed one of their newest christmas casuals, Lisa (Angourie Rice); a young schoolgirl, charged under the care of Fay (Rachael Taylor) and Patty (Alison McGirr). While the two veterans at first are anything but welcoming, they quickly become fond of Lisa. They’re not the only one, as Lisa's curiosity and innocence intrigues Magda (Julia Ormond), the manager of the high fashion section, who takes Lisa under her wing, opening her eyes to the opportunities of fashion.


While its a coming of age story, it also shares the lives of these women who've become integral to Lisa's journey. With Fay finding the romance she's been longing for (in the form of a "refo"), Patty desperately trying to reconnect with her husband and Magda's experience as an immigrant during the 1950's.


The film is both a testament to how far Australia has come but also a reminder as to where we still have to go. As Australia continues to express hostility towards immigrants in the wake of the scare propaganda elicited by our conservative politicians, some of the dialogue can be jarring, particularly with "refo" being thrown around liberally. Ultimately, the film has its heart in the right place, but doesn’t always succeed at navigating the tricky political discourse with ease.


The cast are exceptional, particularly Taylor whose performance confirms her abilities, which have yet to be truly realised by Hollywood. Rice shines as the inquisitive protagonist, who's the glue to the whole cast. Interestingly they cast an Australian and English Actor to play the roles of immigrants. While this seems like a missed opportunity to draw some real diversity into the cast, both actors are tremendous in their respective roles, blending the right amount of humor and pathos.

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It's a simple story; nothing flashy, just a genuine and heartwarming tale. Much better than expected.