Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville, Richard Graham, Camilla Rutherford, Harriet Sansom Harris
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…a sumptuous, elegant, exquisite creation of the finest quality, stitched together by a master of the craft.
Phantom Thread is ostensibly the story of Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), a fancy fashion designer who is the toast of 1950s London high society. Reynolds is a sartorial genius, a frocking maestro and, it has to be said, a bit of a prick. Driven, obsessive and borderline sociopathic at times, he only respects his work, his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) and the ever present memory of his dear departed mum. One fine day in the countryside, Reynolds meets statuesque waitress, Alma (Vicky Krieps) who quickly becomes his new muse and throws his life into strange disarray, for good and ill.
The notion of troubled artists and the young women who “inspire” them is as old a trope as can be imagined and in lesser hands this could have been masturbatory fluff. Happily, the hands holding the needle in this case are those of Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia) who weaves a tale that’s far more complex and nuanced than it first appears.
Obviously, the big draw for audiences here is Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance which is beyond stunning. Reynolds emerges on screen a fully fleshed-out creation, tall and spindly like a scarecrow with stunning cheekbones, he speaks in an oddly modulated, slightly prissy-sounding hiss and moves with an eerie, angular energy. Playing off him must have been quite a feat, and yet Vicky Krieps rises to the occasion, delivering a natural performance that simmers with barely restrained emotion and perhaps just a hint of madness.
Phantom Thread tells a story that meanders over two hours and change, and is less a yarn and more of a character study, but that’s not to say nothing happens. Anderson’s script – his best in years – rejoices in the details, the heavy, heady symbolism of little moments and tiny triumphs, not to mention some genuine shocks and surprises in the film’s subversive third act.
Ultimately, Phantom Thread is a story about love, but it’s not a love story. It’s a tale of obsession, but it’s not a thriller. Phantom Thread is its own thing, a sumptuous, elegant, exquisite creation of the finest quality, stitched together by a master of the craft.