Fashionable, sensual, and elegant, The Phantom Thread is a visual treat for any viewer.
Director Paul Anderson crafts a haunting love story between a genius and his strong-willed muse. Initially, the movie seems like and another run of the mill period film but a twisted love story and witty dialog makes it more than meets the eye.
The story follows the life of Reynolds Woodcock, a talented, yet tightly wound designer. The film plays with a nuanced swap of gender roles. Seeing a man so passionate about fashion and obsessed with femininity is refreshing. Daniel Day Lewis’ character loves beauty and perfection to the extreme. His opposite, Alma, played by Lesley Manville, reminds the genius of what is real versus what is perfect.
However, perfection is still prevalent in the film. The fabric and the food draw as much attention as the dialogue. Every meal and every dress is crafted perfectly to fit this dreamy film. The perfection of the music, costuming, and set play well to the character of Reynolds Woodcock himself. He lives on a tight schedule day after day with things like breakfast and tea being vital to how efficiently he can work. The man’s work is his life but he is plagued by exactitude and absurd neediness. At times Woodcocks is more like a child that a 50- something man. He is stubborn and obsessive but is still no less of a genius.
While having breakfast at an inn, he meets Alma who is working as a waitress. Woodcock invites her to dinner and later brings her to his home. He decides to measure her and discovers that she is “the perfect size” and becomes his model and muse. However, Alma is more than just a frame for the beautiful garments Woodcock creates; she can see through him. She sees beyond the routine and perfection of Woodcock’s life saying, “I think you’re only acting strong”. She sees that Woodcock has a weak side under his outer shell of strict routines.
The two work together for some time, but it doesn’t last. Alma feels brushed aside by Woodcock’s stiffness and does not put up with it. Frustrated with Woodcock’s boyish attitude about his routine, she finds a way to keep him all to herself, leading into the twisted relationship the two share.
Aside from being a captivating love story, the film has witty dialogue. At first glance, one wouldn’t expect the film to be funny, but Woodcock’s stubborn quips serve as delightful comic relief. Woodcock’s general view of the world is a bit ridiculous at times, making his unintended humorous side shine through.
A musical score accompanied by light piano adds to the elegant feel of the entire film. A rainy London day is made luxurious by the lovely musical score.
Phantom Thread could easily be written off as Oscar bait, but it’s the subtle haunting quality of the ending that sets it apart from being excused as a posh, uppity film.The ending leaves the viewer with untied loose ends and questions about the nature of love and obsession. As unsettling as this may seem, the film couldn’t have ended in any other way. We see the lovers succumb to their tragic flaws, but still find a way to be together.
Phantom Thread was nominated for six Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Actor, Best Original Score, and Best Costume Design. Naturally, the fashionable film won Academy Award for Best Costume Design. The costuming plays into the depth of the story itself. The characters live out the story, but the clothes create the story itself.
Charming and evocative, Phantom Thread is brilliantly crafted. From Woodcock’s routine, including his signature purple socks, to Alma’s wit and passion, Phantom Thread is an excellent film because of its ability to be equally haunting and elegant.
Rating: Five stars