Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread is a stylish romantic drama that captivates and infuriates. The story of an obsessive dress maker in post-war London doesn’t sound exciting, and adding a tumultuous and passionate element of love makes it sound predictable, but audiences will search for words to describe Phantom Thread, and “predictable” will not be one of them.
The story of Phantom Thread is deceptively simple. Much like mother! the movie deals with an obsessive artist struggling with himself. Unlike Darren Areofsky’s polarizing film, Anderson’s is less allegorical and more of a traditional story. However, the themes it deals with are just as complex. Love and high fashion are used to tell a story about acceptance, loneliness, and need. Phantom Thread does not tread new ground; it just finds new ways to successfully tell a familiar story.
In what will possibly be his last role, Daniel Day-Lewis is amazing as Reynolds Woodcock, a famous dressmaker who the richest and most fashionable Londoners go to. Woodcock goes through a myriad of emotions throughout the film, and Lewis conveys them all perfectly. The obsessive designer is confident to the point of obnoxiousness while also being so insecure he should be pitied. He is a hero, villain, aggressor, and victimizer and will make you laugh and yell in anger. It speaks volumes about Lewis’s portrayal that after Woodcock says three simple words that most people use every day, there were audible gasps in the theater.
Not to be outdone is Lesley Manville as Cyril Woodcock. Manville gives an understated performance that is brilliant and will truly be appreciated once Phantom Thread has ended. Manville’s acting is top-notch and so natural that it is impossible not to take her for granted. An innocuous smile, the way she fixes her hair when removing her glasses, a sidelong glance; all these seemingly insignificant actions add to Cyril’s character.
The music in Phantom Thread is beautiful. Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood wrote the film’s music and each scene of the movie is perfectly scored. With elements of 1950s rock, jazz, and classical, the film’s music heightens the mood. The best movie scores are memorable without being overpowering. Greenwood is successful at adding to the movie’s tone without setting it.
Anderson’s direction is great in Phantom Thread. The usual Paul Thomas Anderson tricks are here. Camera shots reminiscent of a third person video game, long roaming shots with few cuts, and shots where characters walk towards the camera until their faces fill the screen are all here. Phantom Thread is an elegant movie and Anderson makes sure to take it all in. The beautiful homes and dresses are all shown in their full splendor. Tension filled scenes are made more tense by excellent lighting.
Phantom Thread is the result of everything coming together perfectly. A beautiful story, amazing acting, and great soundtrack unsurprisingly lead to an excellent movie. Phantom Thread exceeds its lofty expectations.