RTF Review: “Phantom Thread”
By Tony Artiga
It’s frustrating reviewing a film that you KNOW is brilliant, but one that you honestly don’t love. Do you recommend it? Do you not? Can you even critique something like that? In these moments, I heed the words of Master Yoda. But “Do or do not” is off the table, so “try” it is.
Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a designer of fine garments in 1950’s London, who falls in love with his waitress Alda (Vicky Krieps). Phantom Thread follows their relationship through decidedly unexpected trials that you would expect from Anderson.
Films that relish in characters that are awful to each other are tough for me to fall in love with. Reynolds verbally abuses Alda; Alda in turn poisons Reynolds. The results that these actions yield are appropriately off-putting. And yet it’s enthralling. Anderson really is a master of finding beauty in misanthropy.
Phantom Thread is a technical marvel. The script is spellbinding, the cinematography is gorgeous and the costume design is flawless. Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps hold a clinic in partner acting. They navigate the narrative effortlessly, which is a gorgeous meditation on how passions collide. Passion for your work and your art often does clash versus the passion that comes with love and the splendors that come with building a life together. These themes and the power struggle are vividly portrayed by Lewis and Krieps in their roles. The movie also avoids the trap that similarly misanthropic films like “The Killing of Sacred Deer” or “Mother” fall into. When characters are meant to be representative of the themes of a film, there is a danger that they lack human dimension. Not so here. Alda and Reynolds are almost unapologetically human and primal in said humanity.
A friend who saw the film described it best as “exquisite without being ostentatious.” After looking up what those words meant, I totally agree. I can’t promise you that you will love it, but like any fine garment, you need to try it on to know.