LADIES IN BLACK is a Film Your Grandma Will Enjoy

Bruce Beresford is a master Australian filmmaker. He has brought us such wonderful award winning films as BREAKER MORANT, DRIVING MISS DAISY, MAO’S LAST DANCER, BLACK ROBE and PARADISE ROAD. And let’s not forget the Aussie icon, PUBERTY BLUES. So when he releases a new movie it demands attention. When people he works with are touting LADIES IN BLACK to be “his best all-time movie,” I crash tackle grandmas to get a seat at the premiere in The State Theatre. LADIES IN BLACK is out now from Sony Pictures Australia, it is rated PG and runs for 109mins.


Ladies in Black Movie Shane Jacobson and Angourie Rice image
Shane Jacobson and Angourie Rice




Set in Sydney in the 1950s, LADIES IN BLACK tells the story of bookish school leaver Lisa who joins the sales staff in fashionable department store, F.G. Goode’s. Over a summer that changes her life, she befriends the colourful denizens of the women’s clothing department. Each of the characters is on the precipice of change; facing independence, working for a living, and what it means to be a woman.


Ladies in Black Rachael Taylor and Ryan Corr image
Rachael Taylor and Ryan Corr



Not even close – this would firmly sit towards the lower end of Beresford’s cinematic work. The movie literally has limited-to-no purpose besides a “season in the life” of a group of women from different backgrounds. It has a decent, but small look at multiculturalism in the 50s and then covers an entire film in saccharine sweet storytelling. Do not get me wrong, LADIES IN BLACK is absolutely charming with characters you will like but they literally serve no purpose and lack any form of conflict. Everything is nice, everything is positive and everything is happy. This is why I think the elderly will enjoy it, it is completely free from negativity and shows a nice side of Sydney that is more along the Mills and Boone (without the sexiness) storytelling.

But the opportunity to show this as a film set in a department store and the goings on is mostly passed over. I was picturing a 1950s Department Store with a THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA Miranda Priestly like manager, and super strong personality women that spend most of the time working in the department store. Besides the leads most of the other characters are one or two dimensional. And the department store set came off more like ABC Television sets with no budget and hardly any of the movie is spent in the actual department store. All glamour was completely bland washed. It needed to be shown as a place people wanted to work, the heart and soul for these characters to develop.

Was this Australia at the time?

Perhaps, I wasn’t around but it gave the department store setting next to no purpose and the movie would have been more appealing as a telemovie. I feel for Sony – they are mass releasing this movie and I cannot see it making any money.


However – kudos to the cinematography from Peter James (27 Dresses, Alive) and to the art team for bringing Sydney in the 50s to life – good to see an old ferry available but if you look off the back of the ferry you will see a modern day sport boat at anchor, I think it was a Scarab or a boat of that shape.


Ladies in Black Angourie Rice and Rachael Taylor image
Angourie Rice and Rachael Taylor



Besides my dislike for a lot of the making of this movie the cast is superb. Rachael Taylor, I can watch her in anything, such beauty and natural grace, although it didn’t really fit when Julia Ormond’s character looks at her and says “She’s rough and has no style…….perfect.” Her natural style and beauty is anything but rough. As for Ormond – she steals every scene she is in and was my character favourite of the movie as the “reffo” aka refuge aka migrant. Growing up we had a lot of these people in our lives, she flooded me with memories. Alison McGirr played a decent character but is overshadowed by so many actors who are more well known.

Angourie Rice continues to impress as a bubbly positive and completely charming teen girl developing into a lady. She is learning a lot about independence and being a strong female from these fashionable ladies. Ryan Corr comes in as my second favourite character in the movie behind Ormond – he just glows on camera and has quite a few funny one lines. I never pictured him playing an OTT European but he takes to it like a duck to water. And audience favourites Shane Jacobson, Noni Hazlehurst and Susie Porter fill out the second tier characters with ease.


Ladies in Black Angourie Rice and Julia Ormond image
Ladies in Black Angourie Rice and Julia Ormond image



There are too many flaws in LADIES IN BLACK for it to be considered a great Beresford movie. While the casting and characters are wonderful people you want to spend time with the story itself is too covered in saccharine sweetness to convey anything meaningful and long lasting. As a weekly TV show – this could have developed into something to impress.





 owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the  industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.


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