Monday, January 29, 2018

Movie Review: "Phantom Thread" (2017)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Year: 2017
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

A look at the relationship between an unpleasant, demanding fashion designer and a waitress who he uses as his inspiration and as a lover.

Regardless of how you feel about "Phantom Thread," there is no denying this is an utterly stunning film to look at. We can't say we're surprised since it is written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who has directed films like "Boogie Nights," "Punch Drunk Love," and "There Will Be Blood." This project stars Daniel Day-Lewis, who claims to now be retired and says this will be his final film. Only time will tell if it's true or not. Here, he plays Reynolds Woodcock, a meticulous fashion designer who has a disagreeable, abrasive personality and is a perfectionist when it comes to his work. He likes things a certain way and has no problem letting other people know exactly what he thinks. He is anal-retentive, and even the smallest disturbance can ruin his whole day. Joining him is Vicky Krieps, who plays Alma, a strong-willed and often combative waitress who Reynolds takes on as a lover and as his muse. The entire movie is a character study about their relationship, which gets increasingly more toxic. Also in the film is Lesley Manville, who plays Cyril Woodcock, the sister of Reynolds who seems to handle all his affairs on the business end of things.

When we said this movie was gorgeous, we meant it in every way. Technically speaking, "Phantom Thread" is a beautiful film full of interesting camerawork, beautiful set designs, and breathtaking costumes. This is a movie loaded with eye-candy for those who are into fashion and all things alluring. Even the score is tremendous and aids to its beauty. That being said, this is an often stuffy, unrelatable period piece about mostly unlikable characters. No one does unlikable better than Daniel Day-Lewis. He is one of the greatest living actors and he plays an utterly despicable person extraordinarily well. His mannerisms are both snobbish and rude. His many peculiarities are a complete turn-off. There is one particular scene involving breakfast toast and tea that shows just how much of an overbearing, unreasonable, unimaginable bastard he can be. As good as Day-Lewis is, he is aided in large part by the performances of Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville, who put on equally strong performances. Manville received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Reynolds' sharp-and-frank-tongued sister who understands her brother's needs better than anyone and says things that are brutally unapologetic. Krieps gets to be the woman who at first bends to the will of her lover only to test the boundaries and push more and more of his buttons as their relationship becomes more serious. Between the two of them, it is hard to tell who is actually the worse person. Sure, Reynolds is a complete asshole, but Alma does some things that are downright wicked and evil.

While we did find enjoyment in "Phantom Thread," the story isn't all that compelling, especially early on. It becomes a bit mundane and repetitive at times. There are only a few moments where we really became truly engaged by this increasingly malicious, virulent story. On the one hand, this is a visually remarkable and well put together piece of cinema, but on the other, the story flounders from time to time. This is not a movie everyone will enjoy and we have a feeling it will divide viewers more than anything.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~91%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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