Starring Daniel Day Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville, Gina McKee, Harriet Sansom Harris
Imagine The Devil Wears Prada, only directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, but gender flipped and set in the 1950’s. Ok, so it’s nothing like ‘Prada’, With PTA comes an expectation of brilliance for some, divisiveness for others. Phantom Thread is more in the vein of The Master than the iconic There Will Be Blood. It’s less about the fashion industry and more about human eccentricities and control. From the title card to the closing credits, Jonny Greenwood’s score fuses the images and narrative together, often the only noise heard on screen. What surprised me the most about Phantom Thread was the dark humor and the female strength. For a film banking on audiences turning out for three-time Oscar winner Lewis’ final performance, it’s Krieps and Manville who make the biggest impression.
House of Woodcock is one of, if not the most respected fashion house in London during the 1950’s. Reynolds Woodcock (Lewis) is a specifically particular designer, always with a muse, former waitress Alma (Krieps) his latest. Standing on his designer box, being measured and fitted, the woman of the moment feels like the luckiest person alive. It’s the next morning during breakfast, “quiet time” as sister Cyril (Manville) explains, where the relationships fall apart. Woodcock and Cyril both meet their match with Alma, who isn’t the typical pushover. She becomes interested in the work, dedicated to the man, and steadfast in her purpose to remain in a relationship she doesn’t trust.
Phantom Thread is neither Anderson’s most impressive or prolific work.
As Anderson brings us into this world of narcissistic behavior, Phantom Thread creeps into something interesting during the first act. Manville’s sturdy and mostly withdrawn performance as Cyril gives us as much information about Reynolds as Lewis’ performance. He talks about the deceitfulness of marriage, it’s not for him, and we quickly understand his routine with women, fashion and always having his will carried out. Krieps (Hanna) is an inspired casting choice here, her Alma is like a slow building hurricane, clashing into Reynolds world and the audience gets to relish in his undoing. “You found me. Whatever you do, do it carefully,” she says. Her vanishing naivete is the character arc of the film.
Phantom Thread is neither Anderson’s most impressive or prolific work. It would also be difficult to name anything in this movie as “the best” of anything compared to other award season films. Maybe the costumes stand out above all the other films. It’s not the most engaging piece of cinema, outside of its peculiarities, won’t appeal to a large audience, but Anderson’s films rarely do. Lewis and Meryl Streep are veteran favorites, and while he doesn’t make the amount of films she does, both seem to have a permanently reserved seat at the nomination table whether their new performances break barriers or not. Phantom Thread is an odd choice in subject matter for Anderson, and his diehards won’t embrace this stuffier material as they have his more violent and rigid works.
Enjoyable performances and surprisingly more humorous than expected.