Phantom Thread (2017)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
The intriguing and somewhat mysterious Oscar hopeful, Phantom Thread, has a look and feel unlike any other 2017 film.
In what could be the final performance in the legendary career of Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread finds the actor on top of his game, matched by a terrific breakthrough performance from Vicky Krieps.
Gorgeously shot, impeccably costumed, with a striking score from Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, Phantom Thread creates a swirling, dazzling world we cannot help but get swept up in.
Paul Thomas Anderson's movie slugs along at a controlled, determined pace, which will frustrate viewers who find it too slow to engage with.
Is there an actual point? I mean, of course there is, I guess, but seriously, does anyone care anymore once the movie's end credits emerge on screen?
With characters some will find unlikable, the uncompromising nature of the storytelling, and an arrogance that bubbles to the surface, Phantom Thread ight frustrate and exhilarate people in equal measure.
In Paul Thomas Anderson's new film, Phantom Thread, 50-something fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) has never married. He takes pride in seldom, if ever, compromising his career for anyone. Successful, he seems just as satisfied sketching out a client's designs, as he is reading the paper and sitting in solitude. Enraptured with his own ego and wealth, he seemingly could not be happier.
His sister and personal assistant, Cyril (Lesley Manville), chews her cheek and locks her jaw in near-constant frustration, but stays loyal to her brother. With nary a spoken word shared, Cyril knows Reynolds inside and out and makes sure he is given the space necessary to stay creative. There is an unspoken respect between the two, as well as an uncommon bond typically shared by brother and sister.
On a getaway drive to a seaside chateau, he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), a waitress he is instantly enamored with. Soon, she becomes his model, muse, and obsession, and the duo are together back in Reynolds' world. However, Alma recognizes her desire to be more than just a clothing model and begins to push back upon the dynamic which Reynolds all but dictated once they began their relationship.
Anderson's latest film is a vexing animal to try and cage, explore, and study. Between all three main characters - Reynolds, Cyril, and Alma - we have what equates to sentient chess pieces moving diabolically into position. Each wants some level of control and power. For Reynolds, it is in his nature and he knows no other way. For Cyril, she must make sure all distractions are avoided for her brother to keep the peace for her and him. Alma, attracted to Reynolds, soon sees that she has something of a hold on him, and is ready to explore what that attraction permits her to do.
Phantom Thread does stand out as something wholly and completely different from anything else I watched in 2017. Paced to reflect Reynolds measured social gait, the movie is uncompromising in its pace, a fact that will undoubtedly frustrates those who do not often delve into more independent or avant garde-style cinema.
Anderson benefits from three interconnected performances, and while Day-Lewis is expected to land an Oscar nomination, he properly slides in and out of the forefront to allow Manville and Krieps to shine. Luxembourg actress Krieps is a major find for Anderson, and as she makes inroads in finding her voice with Alma, the actress more than holds her own opposite the three-time Oscar winning actor.
Surrounding these three main characters is a sumptuous world of beautiful clothing, painstakingly detailed sets and a wonderful score from Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. His melodramatic work hearkens back to movie music both from a different era and refreshingly modern. Much like Reynolds' designs, time becomes frozen to a certain extent in Phantom Thread. And from a technical standpoint, Anderson, like with There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights, and The Master, has crafted another world impossible to ignore.
There is a lot to ponder here. The gender dynamics in Reynolds and Alma's relationship becomes blurred, a power struggle emerges, and a moment of rare candor between brother and sister ends up with the most improbable of conclusions. Phantom Thread is focused on slingshotting us into a life and world that is foreign to us.
And we land oddly, sometimes with a thud and sometimes softly. Never all that easy to categorize, Phantom Thread is dark, emotionally vacant at times, and stubborn, then surprisingly emotional and candid. A healthy sampling of snark and disdain storm clouds over the film with such ferocity that you start snickering yourself at the cutting looks and remarks.
And much like Reynolds' prickly pear personality, you cannot help it. If you stay in the world of Phantom Thread long enough, you can't help but brush away the lint, suck on your teeth, gaze plain-faced at others and a molasses-like narcissism just might slowly take you over.
From this observer's seats in the theater, this is all quite delectable to watch, even when the movie cannot help but become unsavory, strange, and hard to bring close to the heart.
Then again, Alma, Reynolds, and Cyril likely wouldn't care one bit about your experience in watching "their movie." Besides, I am sure they have far more important things to tend to.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville.
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Release Date: December 25, 2017
Focus Features/Universal Pictures