Paul Thomas Anderson is considered an acquired taste, akin to Woody Allen. One either likes or dislikes the filmography and requires a few or several films to completely enjoy his movies as they are. Even if Phantom Thread is your first P.T. Anderson film, the film still demands a niche audience to fully appreciate it.
Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) resides in a lovely mansion with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) in London, England during the 1950s. Only the upper class don the House of Woodcock dresses and it is a prerequisite to display the dress with elegance. While Reynolds’ life is mundane, he meets cute with the waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps) at a restaurant. Alma eventually becomes his muse and love interest and unexpected and then, expected incidents occur during the complicated relationship.
Phantom Thread is Day-Lewis’s final film prior to retiring from acting and indeed, he concluded his career with a bang. Both Krieps and Manville’s astonishing performances are overlooked during this awards season. While Manville provides a understated performance, Cyril is the most nuanced character out of the two prominent women in Reynolds’ life. It seems Alma only exists to move Reynolds’ career forward. Alma’s past is barely examined and therefore, it is difficult to care for her actions.
As the film progresses, one will notice Alma is psychopath and Reynolds allows her to take advantage of him. Despite Alma complement Reynolds well, their relationship provides many pitfalls in which allows one to ponder the boundaries with significant others. Feminism is definitely here, but it is undermined because there is a need for the man to be front and center. If only Alma was given more depth into her ideals.
Phantom Thread ultimately twists the romance genre on its head. Anderson isn’t afraid to challenge one’s expectations. What one would expect to happen, the opposite arises. You could consider this is a romance tale on steroids. If it wasn’t for the sublime chemistry among Krieps and Day-Lewis, this film could’ve been a disaster – but under Anderson’s supervision, we are provided with a near masterpiece.
Nearly everything in this film is beautiful. Jonny Greenwood’s seductive score enhances the exquisite costume and production designs. Despite the questionable conclusion, Phantom Thread demonstrates it is what on the inside, not the outside that matters in a relationship. As beautiful as the dresses, it is easy to overlook some flaws. B+