Let’s face it, we were all pretty damn excited or upset when Daniel Day-Lewis announced that he was working on his final film before retiring from acting entirely. Upset that this would likely be his last film ever, and it’s a shame to see a talented actor not spend all of his time doing what he’s best at. And excited that the film would be directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, the same masterful filmmaker who directed Day-Lewis to his second Oscar win after 18 years, meaning that the film would probably be amazing.
So it’s safe to say there was a lot riding on this one, and expectations were super high for Phantom Thread. So, did it deliver?
IMDB Synopsis: Set in 1950’s London, Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover.
The first half of Phantom Thread bored me to death, and by that point I was superbly irritated by Day-Lewis’ manchild of a character, Reynolds Woodcock and his as-petty counterpart Alma played by Vicky Krieps. So the tall and short of it is that Alma comes to live with Reynolds at his house, which is a top couture house in 1950’s London. As such, the house is constantly full of people, mostly women who work for Woodcock, his clients who come and go, and his sister who is also his manager of sorts; and now Alma who is his lover and muse joins the mix and that’s where the conflict starts.
The film is rather irritating at first as we watch his character simply deal with wanting her there because he likes her, but not wanting her there because he considers her a distraction or that she doesn’t fit in with the very courtly manner of 1950’s Londoners all around him (also the fact that everyone gives him what he wants because he’s a mad genius and is very demanding… I feel like we’ve seen this before). It wasn’t until the conflict evolves and the story twists in ways you wouldn’t expect, that I started to get drawn in and really enjoyed it.
Now, I’m not going to discuss the various social implications of this kind of film considering the current landscape in Hollywood (I really don’t have the time for that one day before the Oscars as I’m trying to finish all my Best Picture reviews) but from a technical perspective, this film looks and sounds amazing.
The score, by Jonny Greenwood is both eloquent and ominous, and mirrors the weird twisted nature of the film itself. The cinematography in this film is superb, and Paul Thomas Anderson served as his own DoP for the film, his debut as cinematographer on a feature film, which is astounding considering that he wrote the film in addition to directing it.
Out of the three main actors in the film, Lesley Manville as Cyril, Reynolds’ formidable sister offers a highly nuanced and stunning performance. There’s a lot more to what she’s doing with this character than meets the eye, and even though I didn’t vote for her in our Oscars predictions, I wouldn’t be mad if she took home the statue tomorrow night.
I’d suggest buckling in and paying close attention as you make your way through the less eventful first half of this film, so you can really appreciate where it goes once it really starts to ramp up. If you like twisted ideas and stories, I promise you won’t be disappointed. No matter where which side of the moral arguments around this film you fall on, I promise that you’re in for an interesting look at the power struggle that goes on in a relationship.
Check out my Letterboxd review where I scored it slightly lower after my initial watch. Don’t forget to follow me there too: Phantom Thread Review on Letterboxd
You can watch the trailer for Phantom Thread below:
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