The Ladies in Black is a gentle comedy based on the 1993 book Women in Black, by Madeleine St. John. It is set in Sydney in 1959; the story centres around a group of women who all work in the cocktail dress section of an upmarket department store; Goodes.
Fay is fed up of dating boorish men and is looking for real love; Patty has a troubled marriage, Lisa is just out of school and is a Christmas casual who dreams of being a poet and actress; and Magda, (who for my money steals the show) a Slovenian immigrant- Refo as she calls herself- who runs the couture department. The story follows the lives of these women and their families and friends as they work through the Christmas time rush and January sales.
As the story progressed I found myself torn between the nostalgia of those simpler times and disdain at the attitude to women in the 50s and 60s. Lisa’s father does not see any need for her to attend university to further her education even though she has excellent exam results; as obviously women didn’t need education. The general idea being that women were definitely the lesser sex.
Also of interest, was the way that the ‘Refos’ were portrayed as much more sophisticated and intellectual than the Australians; talking about literature and classical music, and introducing now commonplace foods such as salami, olives and wine. The Australians, on the other hand, were more gauche.
The acting is superb and the continental accents spot on; the gentle digs at Melbourne being a bit of a boring backwater -hilarious.
The movie is a feast for the eyes of anyone who likes vintage fashion, and is a good depiction of life in the 50s/60s in Australia.
I could happily recommend this movie to most of my friends, including the 20 somethings that I work with: it was just a lovely, enjoyable glimpse of life gone by.
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