PHANTOM THREAD – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Phantom Thread is set in the 1950's fashion world but it’s really not about clothes. It’s more a brilliant study of obsession, love, control, and ultimately surrender. At the end of the film it actually becomes an odd “Munchausen love story.” A fitting way to end what the lead actor Daniel Day-Lewis is calling his last film ever!
From the very beginning of the movie, we see renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) meticulously getting dressed and ready for his day. No hair out of place and everything inspected before leaving his room. By the end of the scene, without a word being spoken, you know that this man is wealthy, a perfectionist, and used to getting his way. The choice to cast Mr. Day-Lewis is tongue in cheek funny because in his long and honored career of acting, he too is known for his drive and perfectionism when creating a new role.
Once Reynolds gets downstairs he is greeted at the large breakfast table by two women. One is his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), who he affectionately refers to as “my old so-and so,” who runs the business side of their British fashion empire. The two of them have dressed royalty, movie stars, debutants and women whose only goal in life is to be dressed at least once in the distinct style of ‘The House of Woodcock’.
The other woman is unnamed and beautiful. Perhaps she was once one of the models for the designer. She looks distressed as she tries to eat breakfast and get some positive attention from Reynolds. Being entirely overlooked by him drives her to a hissy fit and she storms off. Reynolds tells his sister that it’s over with her and wants her gone. Cyril, who acts like this is not the first time she has had to clean up her talented brother's mess, tells him she will offer her the small apartment in another town as a parting gift. He nods his agreement and goes about his day.
The movie stunningly shows us the glamorous but solitary life that Reynolds leads in order to design the dresses he does. He is able to elevate his work to the level of Art.
On a much-needed vacation Reynolds drives his sports car to the country to spend some down time at the family cottage. It is there that he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), a modest, sweet waitress who serves him breakfast. Reynolds is instantly captivated and sweeps Alma off her feet. Whisking her away from her small country life and into a life as his model and lover in the big city. She is his muse and love.
I won’t go into more detail because I want you to see the film. Let's just say that when Reynolds starts to fall into old habits of getting tired of his current love, Alma turns out to be more than able to hold her ground and is not about to let go of this man and artist that she adores. Seeing these two go toe-to-toe and creating a complicated love life is really thrilling to watch.
Writer/director and cinematographer on this one, Paul Thomas Anderson, never ceases to surprise and it's wonderful having him helm such a sophisticated film. He was one of the first of the “video store” generation of filmmakers to do well. These were the kids that grew up with unlimited access to films in their homes, that they could study and learn from. They cut their teeth making short films on their home video VHS cameras and cutting them between decks. Legend goes, that in 1993 after enrolling in N.Y.U.’s prestigious film program for two days, he got his tuition back and used the money to make the very successful short film Cigarettes & Coffee. The rest of his features were California-centric movies like Boogie Nights and Punch-Drunk Love. So, to see him successfully tackle this story set in 1950's Europe with such a subtle and nuanced story is thrilling. It’s an exciting evolution to his already lauded career.
Phantom Thread is beautifully shot, expertly directed, and may be the last time we get to see the breathtaking acting of the legendary Daniel Day-Lewis. For these reasons I give it an A+ rating, it’s a must see this season.
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Written By Paul Thomas Anderson
Selig Rating A+
Drama / Romance
Limited Release January 12th AMC NorthPark, Angelika Film Center Dallas, Cinemark West Plano
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville
Movie Site: focusfeatures.com/phantom-thread
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.