Best Picture Countdown #6: Phantom Thread

“I cannot start my day with a confrontation. I simply have no time for confrontations.” – Daniel Day Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock, Phantom Thread (2017)

Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville
Runtime: 2hr 10min
Rating: R

A period drama set in London during the 50’s, Phantom Thread follows the turbulent relationship between fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) and young waitress Alma (Krieps). Their romance teeters precariously between love and loathing as they struggle to adapt to and learn to understand each other’s differences and contrasting perspectives.

Phantom_Thread.pngThis is a slow-burning film and I found myself theorizing about it and connecting all the dots for a long time afterward. There are so many pieces to put together, different scraps of cloth that must be interwoven to complete the full garment, that the film almost comes across like a mystery or a thriller as well as a drama. It’s a film that makes the viewer think; to wrack their brain and try to understand the character motivations, the inner-workings of their psyche, and the root of their emotions. Most of the film I was expecting DDL’s character to end up being a serial killer, or there was going to be an incest twist, or something a little more macabre. Fortunately, neither happen, and the film brilliantly subverts expectations and keeps the viewer invested through subtleties in character traits, dialogue, and visual cues. However, at the “big reveal” near the end of this film, my mother and I turned to one another and simultaneously said, “What the *bleep*?” Not in a confused way, however – the ending does make sense – it just comes across as kind of left-fieldish at first, so the film might not land with viewers who seek a more conventional movie experience. It’s an artsy, cerebral film, which not everyone will enjoy.

Phantom Thread isn’t so much a standard movie as it is an exploration into the complexity human relationships, as the two leads come together and fall apart in a strange, whimsical dance of ever-shifting emotion carried by the lead actors, Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps. Their chemistry – in all aspects of their passion for each other, whether it be positive or negative – is palpable, and their tumultuous bond is like the dresses Reynold’s envisions, slowly crafted into form, then torn apart before being stitched back together with some alterations. Watching their relationship unfold is mesmerizing, and their ups and downs are often difficult to watch and equally as difficult to predict.

DDL is one of those actors who can really do no wrong, so his nomination for Best Actor comes as no surprise – but as far as this performance goes in comparison to the competition, I’m not predicting a win for this celebrated actor’s alleged last outing. I was actually more compelled by Krieps performance as Alma, as she wove a more mysterious and difficult to decipher portrayal of her character, which gave the ending more of an impact for me. Also stellar is Manville as Cyril, Reynolds’ sister, whose cool, calculating demeanor and crisply savage dialogue sends chills through the screen and up the spine, and was powerful enough to earn her a Supporting Actress nod. However, I have never wanted to flick someone in the forehead more than DDL in this film, which is a testament to just how stellar his performance is. He takes finicky to a whole new level. Definitely forehead-flick worthy. Though the way Alma eats made my skin crawl, and I wanted to launch myself through the screen and slap the spoon out of her hand.

Visually, Phantom Thread is breathtaking. I’d put money on it taking home the Costume Design award, and wouldn’t be opposed to it taking home Best Original Score or Supporting Actress. Anderson has proven himself a visionary and exemplary director many times already (There Will Be Blood, anyone? I still think of DDL every time I drink a milkshake) but I think the competition might be too fierce this time around for him to take the gold for Best Director, though his eye and vision is part of what makes this film so fucking chic.

It’s bizarre, beautiful, and I will never look at mushrooms the same way again. However, as far as the Best Pictures race goes, I’m not predicting Phantom Thread to take the top spot. But in such a stacked category, that does not diminish just how brilliant this film is.

Oscar Nominations:
Best Picture
Best Actor (DDL)
Best Supporting Actress (Manville)
Best Director (Anderson)
Best Original Score (Greenwood)
Best Costume Design 


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