Phantom Thread is Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film (There Will Be Blood, 2007 and Magnolia, 1999). Nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, it stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock, a renowned dressmaker living in 1950’s London, who works with his sister, Cyril. A socialist and bachelor, women come and go through Woodcock’s life providing his art with inspiration. One day, Reynolds encounters Alma, (played by Vicky Kriebs) a strong-willed woman, who soon becomes a fixture in his life as an assistant, and eventually, his muse and lover. Things go well until Reynolds finds that his once “self-assured” life is being threatened by the idea of actual love. A terrific period-piece, Phantom Thread, is a gloriously well-produced, greatly acted film, that is perhaps the tamest of Anderson’s films. It’s so good.
Phantom Thread, like Anderson’s other films, is about a flawed character with many personal problems. Woodcock is a very specific and introverted individual. He likes his food portrayed a certain way. He prefers butter in his eggs. He doesn’t like scones, etc. Day-Lewis is as great as ever in this role, and compared to There Will Be Blood, he doesn’t exactly have too many show-stopping scenes, which is what makes this performance so good. He makes Woodcock seem like someone who is estranged from life itself when he talks to people. There is a sense of loneliness and discomfort in his voice.
While Day-Lewis is great, the real surprise breakout star of the film, for me, was Vicky Kriebs as Alma. She’s cunning when she attempts to get what she wants, and brought a lot of real humanity to the film. This was especially true with how she tried to bring Woodcock back to earth. Lesley Manville as Woodcock’ sister, Cyril, got an Oscar nomination, and she’s fine. However, for my money, Kriebs should have been nominated. She is, in my opinion, the most valuable player of the film.
The costume design is excellent with it fitting the 50’s period very well. Being a film about a fashion designer, the costumes are aplenty, as you might expect. In particular, I was dazzled by the various gowns that Woodcock had Alma try on, even if some of them did border on absurd looking. Those are moments of pure beauty in a film that’s chock-full with that sort of thing. The cinematography is also great, as expected of a Paul Thomas Anderson film, featuring vibrant colors, and lots of pan scan moments. It’s straight up sublime looking.
Special attention should also be given to the musical score by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead fame. This is his fourth collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson, and the score is front and center, almost like a character in and of itself. Greenwood’s previous three scores for Anderson were much more restrained and not so listener friendly. However, his score for Phantom Thread might just be his best yet. It’s a sharp mix of classical and very jazzy inspired music. It takes center stage during the first twenty minutes and helps drive some of the more important scenes. It’s seriously good music, and very artsy in nature.Phantom Thread is one of the best films of 2017. This is a movie I desperately wanted to see and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a simple film, and compared to earlier Paul Thomas Anderson films, which tended to centered around ensemble casts, Phantom Thread only features three major characters. It doesn’t follow a particular story-beat or structure, but it works great anyway. If you’re a fan of Paul Thomas Anderson, or enjoy quieter, art house fare, then this film is for you.
Coming Friday, February 23rd to Hanover at the Nugget Theater!