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article imageReview: ‘Phantom Thread’ stitches a bizarre story of love and obsession Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 9, 2018 in Entertainment
‘Phantom Thread’ is an unhurried drama and irregular love story in which the characters’ deep set routines are challenged by overwhelming desires.
In the last couple of decades, award-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis has been clearly selective about the roles he accepts. As a result, it now seems he’s reached the moment in his career where his mere involvement in a picture makes it a must-see film. It also doesn’t hurt that the few projects he does agree to are frequently helmed by acclaimed directors and/or populated by other first-rate actors. Day-Lewis’ latest endeavour puts him at the centre of fashion in 1950's London in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread.
Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) is a revered clothing designer who dresses the most illustrious ladies of high society. He creates one-of-a-kind pieces made specifically for certain women and special occasions, and others molded to the shape of his muse-of-the-moment that are then sold to the highest bidder. House Woodcock is one of the most respected in women’s circles, making the artist somewhat of a celebrity — a status which he both embraces and shuns, and a reputation he leaves his sister and business partner, Cyril (Lesley Manville), to manage. During a brief getaway from the city, Reynolds meets a waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps) with whom he becomes infatuated. The younger woman is also taken with him and his lifestyle, and quickly moves into his London house where he lives and works. However, Alma is not satisfied with simply being a muse who will eventually be cast aside, so she attempts to make herself indispensable to Reynolds.
This is an unusual story that shifts focus from Reynolds to Alma at some point during the more than two-hour film. Like many creatives, Reynolds is an incredibly particular man whose fussiness has been tolerated and perpetuated by those around him. In order to maintain the success of the business, Cyril ensures everything is to the designer’s satisfaction at all times, removing any distractions or anyone that causes him displeasure. She and Alma have a mutual understanding, but Reynolds’ new love interest isn’t prepared to always play second-fiddle to her lover’s assistant. Thus, Alma gradually demands more of a say in her relationship with Reynolds… and when her kinder tactics fail, she resorts to more extreme measures to solidify her place at his side.
With a relatively long runtime, slow pace and niche subject (even though most of the dresses are stunning), this film isn’t going to appeal to everyone. But notwithstanding, the performances are still excellent. Even though Day-Lewis appears to be doing his best impression of John Malkovich (and it’s possible he would’ve been offered the role as well), the disposition is perfect for Reynolds, who certainly has a particular way about him that is plausibly charming and irritating. Manville is outstanding as his “old so-and-so,” experienced at knowing when he must be coddled or amusingly put in his place. Conversely, Krieps slowly comes into her own; beginning as a woman attempting to find her place while pleasing her new family, and concluding as one who knows what she wants and is resolved to get it. Anderson’s signature style shines through as the writer/director tells an unconventional love story based on intoxicating obsession.
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Vicky Krieps, Daniel Day-Lewis and Lesley Manville
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