Movie Review : Phantom Thread (2017)
Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the few exciting names working in mainstream cinema today. His movies are beautiful, easy to comprehend and immensely relatable, despite often focusing on fractured individuals and complex emotional truths, like religious faith or transcending one's own past. He could write a movie about a neurotic British tailor and still make it interesting somehow. And it's exactly what he did with Phantom Thread, which is nominated for this year's Oscar for Best Picture, I believe on the power of Anderson's name alone.
But don't get me wrong: Phantom Thread is a quirky and deceptively efficient movie like only Paul Thomas Anderson can make them.
So, Phantom Thread is the story of Reynolds Woodcock (played by the immortal Daniel Day-Lewis), an aging high-end British tailor who's so dedicated to his job, he can't seem to keep a girlfriend. And the presence of his pseudo-castrating sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) doesn't help. That is until he meets a young waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps) who he finds inexplicably inspiring. She finds Reynolds even more inspiring and it makes it difficult for him to work while she's around and turning his bachelor habits upside down. And their relationship becomes really bizarre.
Color me surprised, but I've enjoyed Phantom Thread. It is a meditative movie on love and, to be more precise, why people love one another and choose to be together. Alma loves Reynolds because he makes he feel beautiful. She's a quite plain-looking person and only though his eyes and his clothes she feels different, empowered. Only problem is that many women love Reynolds for the same exact reason and he's kind of addicted to that. The reason why Reynolds falls in love with Alma is more nebulous, but I believe it has something to do with her remining him of... ew, his mom. This movie definitely won't be everyone's cup of tea.
So yeah, Phantom Thread claims there is a transactional nature to love. That is cannot be entirely selfless, which leads the movie into boundary-challenging territory. That isn't unusual for Paul Thomas Anderson, though. He loves to play with his audience's expectations. At one point, Alma poisons Reynolds' meal in order to render him helpless and needy, like she prefers him. It reaches a point where her empowerment through Reynolds' desire is starting to become dangerous and you're wondering if the movie wasn't just a cleverly concealed Hitchcockian suspense. Because it has everything else: the Victorian setting, the claustrophobic relatationship, etc. But Paul Thomas Anderson walks that line to perfection like it's a tightrope.
Paul Thomas Anderson has the profile of a classically Oscarized director, but he's an interesting and challenging one. He would've been rewarded already if There Will Be Blood (one of his masterpieces) hadn't been released the same year as... probably my favorite movie: No Country for Old Men. I don't think Phantom Thread will do the trick for him this year, though. It's too quiet and introspective, and it's going against some powerhouses like Get Out, Lady Bird and Dunkirk, this year. It's by no means uninteresting, but it's one of Paul Thomas Anderson's movies that's the least likely to turn you into a fan if you aren't already one.