The problem with review embargoes is that you tend to lose the passion you had for the movie while waiting. Luckily, that didn’t happen with Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread.” It’s a piece of art, a gem, and PTA’s best work in a long time.
This is also maybe Daniel Day Lewis’s last film since he says he’s retiring. As Reynolds Woodcock (what a name), a famed British fashion designer hobbled by ego and hubris, DDL is quite amazing– reminiscent of Orson Welles in “Citizen Kane” but beyond that into something more intellectually sinister. DDL may very likely win his fourth Oscar.
We’ve written about this movie a couple of times. What begins as a sort of townhouse drama turns into a Hitchockian nightmare. There’s a plot twist and then a last minute decision– each of them will keep you on your toes. Anderson refuses to give us the movie we want or expect, which is his right and also what will keep this film alive for years to come.
Lesley Manville is sensational as Reynolds’s sister, a Mrs. Danville who runs his fashion firm with a motherly-sexual seeming attachment to her brother. It’s a subtle performance, and one worth examining a few times. It’s wonderful that she has what we think of as a male name, too– Cyril. Cyril! And close to Cecil, the first name of DDL’s real life late father.
And then there’s newcomer Vicky Krieps as Alma, the mysterious waitress whom Reynolds picks up in a seaside cafe and turns into his muse and lover. Their great love story becomes Lady Macbeth in one direction, and then something else that will surprise you.
Will men be frightened off of “Phantom Thread” because it’s about fashion? No, because it’s not about fashion. The dresses (they are beautiful and the attention to detail is spot on) are the least of it. This is no fashion show. There is no runway. The Woodcocks live almost in a haunted house, full of ghosts of the past and some of the future. Quite stunning.