Best Costume Design

UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2018)

 

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

 

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps

Never go out with a whimper.

 

Billed as Daniel Day-Lewis’s swansong, Phantom Thread sees the legendary actor reuniting with There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson in a dark and dramatic story of romance, love and incorrect asparagus. The asparagus is fairly key to the plot, in fact. Food aside, the movie demands your attention as it weaves and swerves through its intriguing story.

 

A story that’s very good.

Set in 1950s London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) is a man weighed down by his obsessive and controlling nature – making dresses is his life and he is willing to sacrifice love for his passion. Prone to lashing out, chained to a dedicated routine, doted on by his domineering sister Cyril (Manville) and always-pining for his deceased mother, Woodcock could be described as a manboy. After a sojourn in the countryside connects him to waitress Alma (Krieps), Woodcock finds himself with another young lady that he can attempt to mould in his image. What he doesn’t bargain for is Alma being as strong and challenging as he is, leading to a deeply dysfunctional, emotionally charged and life-changing journey for the pair.

 

Layered with a fascinating ambiguity, Phantom Thread takes its time in telling its story, and that is in no way a negative. Part-romance, part-drama and part-dark comedy (in places), the movie meticulously marries detail with a strong story that evades and switches from its seemingly apparent course. When it seems as though the movie will deal with themes of abuse, male domination and female manipulation, Anderson changes course and throws a spanner into the narrative direction. It’s absorbing, and even with a light sag toward the end, the finale sews everything together with a conclusion that you probably won’t see coming.

 

Closing the curtains on his acting career (apparently), Daniel Day-Lewis delivers a fine, yet nicely bizarre, performance as the fastidious and vulnerable Woodcock. When not sounding similar to a Peter Dinklage/Nigel Slater hybrid, he slinks, mopes and curses his way through scenes with his usual resplendence. Very much his equal here, newcomer Vicky Krieps more than holds her own as she unveils her shifting arc meticulously. This is really her movie, in terms of character focus and she doesn’t disappoint. The two together just…work, whether during awkward breakfast scenes, angry shouting matches or softer moments, there’s a real chemistry between the pair that really propels the movie forward.

 

1950’s post-war London is beautifully recreated – Woodcock’s lavish mansion receiving lustful attention and a standout New Year’s Eve party scene shimmers with nostalgia. Radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood provides the tinkering, ominous score that beautifully accentuates each scene and lends the movie a real throwback feel to it.

 

It’s not a real criticism to say that Phantom Thread will not appeal to everyone due to its slow-burning nature and focus on character as opposed to events. Before the denouement, the movie does falter slightly before picking itself up again and, yes, some parts do feel ponderous. However, Anderson’s approach to crafting this movie calls for these slower moments and, crucially, they’re all important to the overall narrative.

 

The strange arrangement between the two leads provides Phantom Thread with the chance to take an intimate dive into their curious bond and create a bizarre yet captivating dark love story. Day-Lewis is great in his final performance and Krieps is right up there with him. A strong story with welcome twists, Phantom Thread is a top-tier cinematic garment.

February 9th 2018

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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