Movie Review – Phantom Thread
Paul Thomas Anderson has been nominated for the Oscar six times. Four of those times have been for writing. He will likely be nominated again, but three of those writing nominations weren’t earned in my eyes. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of Anderson. He’s a good director. He proved as much with the way Magnolia (1999), There Will Be Blood (2007) or even The Master (2012) look and breathe. He’s one of the few filmmakers to still shoot exclusively on film. His 2012 film was shot on 70mm. His last project, as well as this one were shot on 35mm. Anderson’s scope, however, in his previous works seemed a bit grander. Like with Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, there’s a claustrophobic sense to this film being that the whole thing for the most part takes place in one or two rooms and nearly entirely inside the house of its protagonist. Therefore, epic wide-shots as in There Will Be Blood or even in The Master aren’t really present here.
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln and There Will Be Blood) stars as Reynolds Woodcock, a fashion designer in London in the years after World War II. He’s one of the most prominent dressmakers in the country and possibly world. His operation is done exclusively out of his home, which is a multi-level, luxury townhouse in the city with a very incredible staircase. He employs dozens of seamstresses who assemble all his designs. He doesn’t appear to have a factory with machines to mass produce his sketches. All his designs are hand-stitched. He also seems to limit his clients to the super-wealthy, including European royalty.
He’s initially described as the most demanding man. He’s later called too fussy. There’s absolute truth in both. Reynolds is a very strict person in how he lives his life. He has a certain routine from which he doesn’t like to stray. He’s a perfectionist, which means if things are not done the way he wants, he gets really upset. He’s also obsessed with his work, which is so consuming that it doesn’t allow him much time for a social life.
He’s still attracted to women, but it means he’s not very giving in his relationships. He’ll bring women into his home to live. Most of whom end up being models that he dates. It makes it easier for him if they have that dual purpose, but even then, he still can’t be as attentive to the women as they would like. As such, the women reach a breaking point and leave him or get kicked out.
Vicky Krieps (The Young Karl Marx and The Chambermaid) co-stars as Alma, a waitress at a hotel out in the English countryside. She’s apparently not English though. She’s possibly an immigrant from some European nation. Yet, that nation is never identified. Unfortunately, Anderson’s screenplay fails in this regard. It fails to develop Alma’s character at all.
Alma becomes the love interest for Reynolds. The two even marry, but other than Alma’s physical measurements, we never learn anything about her. We never even see or hear from Alma’s family when she marries Reynolds. Maybe, Anderson wanted her to be a mystery to keep us guessing about what she might do, but he ran the risk of us not caring about her when she did do anything, which was my problem with her characterization.
Much talk has swirled around the fact that this film was going to be the swan song for Day-Lewis as an actor. He’s supposely retiring after this. If that’s the case, he won’t go out on a bang. Aside from being one last favor for Anderson, I don’t see the great appeal about this character. There is a twisted romantic aspect to this story, but, again it’s so imbalanced in that we learn practically nothing about Alma that I didn’t see the point. It simply came down to me not seeing why she was attracted to him. Was it the money, the power or the sex? I wasn’t sure.
All that being said, if Jonny Greenwood is recognized at the 90th Academy Awards for his musical score or if Mark Bridges is recognized for his costume design, I would not be opposed. The dresses themselves in this film are quite stunning and outstanding. Even the clothing for Day-Lewis himself are quite interesting. He’s probably the best-dressed man on screen of any in 2017.
Rated R for language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 10 mins.
In Select Theaters.
In Philly and DC on January 12.
In More Theaters on January 19.