From the snarky title, you may think I hate this film, but I promise you, that is the opposite of how I feel.
Every film fan and film student loves it when a new Paul Thomas Anderson film comes out. He’s directed six critically acclaimed films (and Inherent Vice), and his style is so unique that you could tell he directed it by watching just a five minute clip with no context. Much like Scorsese, Tarantino, Kubrick and Spielberg, I consider Paul Thomas Anderson one of the great auteurs of our time, and I’m very happy I’m alive during a time when I can see his films in a theater.
Phantom Thread is the story of Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), a dressmaker well into his 60s, who has a very particular way of living and treating others. He is both eccentric and reclusive, giving off a sort of Charles Foster Kane vibe at times. His very strange way of living is challenged by Alma (Vicky Krieps), a French waitress he meets when going out for breakfast alone one day. From this interaction on, we see Reynolds and Alma develop a very beautiful, complicated, and at times twisted relationship, that is one of the most unique on screen romances portrayed in a very long time.
The title of this review suggests an obvious comparison between this film and Fifty Shades of Grey. It may seem a bit silly to compare a film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson to a film based on Twilight fan-fiction, but there’s a reason behind it. When the film was announced, there wasn’t a lot of information on the plot. The only description given was that the film would be like an arthouse version of Fifty Shades. That not only sparked my interest, but made me endlessly curious to see what P.T.A would do with this material. After seeing the film, I can say that, while minimal, there are definitely some noticeable ones.
Unlike Fifty Shades, Phantom Thread lacks any sort of kinky sex or smutty writing. Where the similarities lie is in the dynamic of the relationship between Reynolds and Alma. The core of the main relationship in this film is very similar to Fifty Shades. A very rich man takes a poor woman under his wing, and begins grooming her to fit an old of what he desires. When she resists, he becomes obsessed to an unhealthy extent, causing serious drama between the two characters. Does that sound familiar?
But don’t let those similarities fool you. Phantom Thread is leagues above Fifty Shades of Grey in storytelling, acting, directing, and pretty much every single element of filmmaking that there is. Where Fifty Shades of Grey completely falls flat is where Phantom Thread shines with flying colors. First off, the performances are absolutely stunning. I was really worried going in that Daniel Day-Lewis would be giving a very stuffy and Oscar bait-ey performance because he’s already won three oscars and this would be an easy way to be nominated again, but much to my surprise, he played the role with a great sense of humor. You could really tell Day-Lewis was inside the head of the character, and he really embraced some of the much funnier and kooky aspects of Reynolds Woodcock. Vicky Krieps’ performance is also fantastic, and she shares an amazing on-screen chemistry with Daniel Day-Lewis.
Along with that, this movie is flawless aesthetically. I will actually be upset if this doesn’t win best costume design or best makeup. The cinematography is beautiful and incredibly unique among the rest of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films. The score by Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood is beautiful and mesmerizing. And of course, PTA’s direction is immaculate as usual. The writing in this film is also very interesting. You really become attached to Reynolds and Alma’s relationship, and you want to see how it develops, for better or for worse.
My only issue I have with this movie is that it ends on kind of a strange note. Not to say the ending is bad by any means, it’s still good, but if it went on for just a few more minutes, or if the editing was changed around a little bit, it would’ve been perfect. Still, this film is absolutely intoxicating, and while I do love some of Anderson’s other films more than this, it’s still amazing, and definitely one of the best films of 2017.