Tuesday, January 2, 2018


The last time writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson and actor Daniel Day-Lewis worked together, we were treated to the magnificent THERE WILL BE BLOOD in 2007; often considered to be one of the finest films ever made and the best of this millennium. Their newest, and perhaps final collaboration, PHANTOM THREAD, does not match those heights, but it does not aspire to, nor does it need to. Like any good follow-up, their new film is very much its own thing, and doesn’t reach for the stars but instead digs in deep.

Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) is a dress designer in the 1950’s who caters to London’s rich and famous and royalty. He meets and falls for Alma (Vicky Krieps), a humble waitress. Soon the two have a love affair which leads to Vicky sharing a home with Reynolds and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), who is responsible for maintaining the delicate routines so her brother can work.

PHANTOM THREAD does not have a lot of by way of plot, and spends most of its time exploring the relationships between Reynolds, his love-interest Alma, and his sister Cyril…with the bulk of the film concentrating on Alma’s various ups and downs as she figures out how to function in the household which doubles as Reynold’s workspace. The pressures of high-end dress-making takes its toll on Reynolds, and daily routines are absolutely vital to him…and Alma finds out the hard way that even buttering toast too loudly can upset that delicate balance.

Writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson weaves in and around the three principal characters as they figure out how to live with each other and get their task done. A virtual love-triangle is created as Alma and Cyril each want the best for Reynolds but approach it different ways; some methods work, some don’t…and in addition to exploring relationships, Anderson digs in to explore the nature of being an artist and how art and love co-exist. But the true brilliance behind Anderson’s script is that just when the film seems to be heading into familiar and clich├ęd territory, it takes a drastic left-turn and re-invents itself. PHANTOM THREAD goes into areas that are surprising, dark, shocking, and even downright hair-raising and bone-chilling. There is an episodic nature to it, with each new chapter keeping the pages turning.

Anderson films a lush and beautiful looking movie, fully capturing the feel of the 1950’s and the painstaking process of creating high-end dresses. There is an intimacy between characters and the dresses just as much as the characters have with each other. Pacing is a steady slow-burn with the unpredictable nature of the script keeping things moving. The film is also extremely funny without going overboard.

Acting is tremendous. Daniel Day-Lewis is hypnotic with his soothing voice and quietly intense demeanor; there’s always indications that there’s something brewing underneath his handsome looks. In what may be his final role, Day-Lewis once again shows us just far above the acting world he really is. As great as he is, Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville match him nicely.

By movie’s end, Reynolds and Alma aren’t quite living happily-ever-after, but the events of PHANTOM THREAD have armed them with the tools necessary to work on the inevitable bumps they are sure to encounter. Like any beautiful garment, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis have crafted something that can be admired from afar, and deeply appreciated for its detail. This is a wonderful statement on life, love, and art…perhaps the three most vital elements for any film.


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