I don’t mind needing to give a film my attention. But Paul Thomas Anderson turns everything into an unnecessary 2 and a half hour movie. in fact, I truly think he believes that every film should be longer than 2 hours.
In Daniel Day-Lewis’ supposed final film, he plays Reynolds Woodcock, a dress maker in 1950s London. His day-to-day life is very routine, until he meets a young lady, Alma (Vicky Krieps).
Woodcock is a bit crazy and obsessed with his own creativity. Alma immediately falls in love with him, but he is very blatantly just using her as his inspiration. We get the idea early on that this is a pattern with him. He finds a woman, exploits her in order to enhance his work, then eventually she gets tired of him and leaves. Only this time, the woman fully buys into his nonsense. Alma is fully committed, but all he wants to do is take. It’s actually almost too painful to be entertaining.
But something tells me we’re not here to be entertained. We’re here to learn about a particular unhealthy relationship and the truly deep nuances of its dynamic–however unrealistic it all is.
Woodcock’s insanity leads her to find her own crazy, which makes her do terrible things. We know Alma deserves better. He’s so impossibly hard to love, but she does it anyway.
It’s also a look into the culture and the commonly tortured life of a fashion designer of that era by dissecting the psychoanalysis of Woodcock himself.
Day-Lewis is expectedly great. From the very first moments, he never tries to capture the camera. Almost as though he doesn’t realize he’s being filmed at all.
While the story is painfully slow at times, Anderson takes full advantage of the long runtime. He builds tension and develops the complex relationship. There are some excellent and memorably distinct scenes. Unlike his film The Master, where all of the scenes just bleed together. Phantom Thread is intriguing up until the final ten minutes when it completely turns heel and becomes totally weird, breaking the consistently even tone.
In the end, Phantom Thread is a excellently crafted work of art. However, you can’t help but think that the film is just as self-aggrandized as Woodcock, himself.