Sometimes when you watch a movie, you can tell that it was made with hopes of winning Oscars. Phantom Thread is one of those movies. With a plot that is often onerous, it’s difficult to really get invested in what’s going on. But at the same time, the technical aspects and the acting work really well – enough to keep the viewer’s attention through most of the dull plot points.
One of the most notable things about Phantom Thread is that it is Daniel Day-Lewis’ final movie before his retirement from acting. The renowned actor has won three Academy Awards and has been nominated for another three. Here, he gives a darkly mesmerizing performance, one that is worthy to cap off his amazing career.
Behind the camera is eight-time Academy Award-nominated director Paul Thomas Anderson. He delivers yet another award-worthy film based on its cinematography and set design alone. Anderson has created something that has a tendency to falter at times, but that looks and feels beautiful all the way through.
Other Positive Aspects
These two things are definitely the best parts of the movie. Day-Lewis’ performance keeps the viewer interested and invested in his character, Reynolds Woodcock, even though he doesn’t have many redeeming qualities. Reynolds is a renowned dressmaker in London who only cares about himself and his work. He is very particular about all the little things in his life, which makes him a difficult person to be around or even have any affection for.
Somehow, the waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps) is able to find something to love about Reynolds. And this performance may actually have been better than Day-Lewis’. She is tasked with playing a character who is even more strong-willed than Reynolds, which is extremely difficult. She stands up to him in bigger and bigger ways as the plot progresses, which contributes to his character arc.
Phantom Thread is also beautifully shot. There are wonderful tracking shots all the way through, tracking anything from a car to a dress as a woman puts it on to the tape measure being used to measure lengths for the dresses. Anderson knows exactly what he wants to show the audience. By doing this, he’s able to follow one of the oldest rules of film almost perfectly: show, don’t tell.
Unfortunately, the movie follows that rule a little too strictly at times. You see what is going on and how the characters go about their lives, but you’re confused about the intricacies of the story. There doesn’t seem to be a main goal that the characters are striving for. When Reynolds meets Alma at the beginning of the movie, you think that is going to start a specific storyline, but instead, the story seems stagnant the whole way through. There is a push and pull between the two of them, but it never comes to a satisfying ending point. I would be able to take all of this if the characters were interesting enough to get me invested the whole way through, but they never get to that point. None of them are even particularly likeable. And that just leaves a sour taste in your mouth, because you will really want to appreciate what Day-Lewis does in his last role.
There is so much potential that comes with this movie, what with Day-Lewis, Anderson and Krieps. Their involvement in the movie is what makes it watchable. Unfortunately, though, I grew to dislike the character of Reynolds more and more as the story went on, which I think Anderson wanted. But there is no sense of catharsis at the end of the movie, which leaves much to be desired.
You can see Phantom Thread at Parmer Cinema on Friday, April 27 at 6 and 9 p.m. and Saturday the 28th at 3, 6 and 9 p.m.