With his latest film “Phantom Thread”, Paul Thomas Anderson has crafted an unusual but captivating love story. A gorgeous period piece, it offers an insightful look at the life of an artist. From a filmmaking standpoint, the film is undeniably well-made. It is gorgeously shot, beautifully acted and sharply written. Yet, while one can’t fault the filmmaking on display, the film falls short in its storytelling. The story is engrossing for a good hour or so, but it loses steam towards the end. Although it is not a film without flaws, “Phantom Thread” is a spellbinding love story that sticks with you long after the credits roll.
Set during the 1950’s, “Phantom Thread” focuses on the life of a renowned dressmaker named Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis). An obsessive workaholic, Reynolds runs a fashion business with his sister Cyril. However, his carefully tailored life is disrupted when he meets Alma, a strong-willed woman with dreams of her own. As Reynolds falls in love with Alma, his life as a fashion designer begins to fall apart.
If there is anyone that knows how to make a visually gorgeous film, it is writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson. Throughout his career, Anderson has made visually stunning films with images that linger in your mind. And “Phantom Thread” is no exception. Through gorgeous cinematography, Anderson draws the viewer into the world of a fashion designer. Every frame of the film- from the dazzling costumes to the elaborate sets- is visually stunning. It is hard to not marvel at the costume design, sets and overall visual style of the film. Although eye-catching costumes are what we’ve come to expect from a period piece, they play a greater role in the narrative of “Phantom Thread”. Instead of simply serving as visuals, the costumes establish the time period and setting of the 1950’s.
These stunning visuals are accompanied by an unforgettable musical score. Jonny Greenwood’s score is haunting, melodic and highly effective. It creates a sense of tension and suspense, while driving the story forward. “Phantom Thread” is one of those films that is driven by music. Although it can be overpowering at times, the music keeps the viewer invested in the film. Rarely has a musical score affected a film’s quality this much. On a purely technical level, “Phantom Thread” may be the most impressive film that Paul Thomas Anderson has made to date. Every element- from the visuals to the music- elevates the film to another level. It is the perfect example of a filmmaker working at the top of his craft.
Another praise-worthy aspect of “Phantom Thread” is Paul Thomas Anderson’s screenplay. Filled with compelling characters, witty dialogue and a surprising amount of depth, it elevates the film to another level. Although each of these elements is worth talking about, the dialogue stands out the most. Sharp, witty and at times hilarious, it captures the dynamics of a dysfunctional relationship. For instance, a memorable scene in the film when the dialogue stands out is the breakfast scene. In this scene, the loud noises of food irritate and annoy the lead character. Not only does the scene work because of the dialogue, but also due to the perfect comic timing of the actors.
In terms of acting, it is hard to not admire the fantastic performances from the cast. In the year’s most award-worthy ensemble, every actor gets the chance to shine and leave a lasting impression.
Daniel Day-Lewis delivers one of the best performances of his career as Reynolds Woodcock. In what he claims to be his final role, the legendary actor is graceful and distinguished. With intense expressions and quirky mannerisms, he captures the persona of a demanding dressmaker. Its a challenging role that requires the actor to play a cruel and unsympathetic character. However, Daniel Day-Lewis handles it with ease and finds ways to humanize an unlikable person. Its a powerful performance from the intensely committed actor. If this truly is his final screen performance, its a fitting send-off for one of the greatest actors working today.
Vicky Krieps is marvelous in the role of a strong-willed and determined woman. Its certainly not easy to act opposite an acting legend like Daniel Day-Lewis, but Krieps more than holds her own. Through emotional expressions, she commands every scene she is in and conveys the feelings of a woman that is dissatisfied with her relationship. Its a star-making performance that proves that the actress has a bright future in the industry.
Despite the powerful performances from the cast, ultimately “Phantom Thread” is not a film without flaws. Although the movie is undeniably well-made, it suffers from an ambiguous ending. The film starts off with an intriguing and promising premise, but loses steam towards the end. The ending is utterly confusing and leaves a lot to the viewer’s imagination. I appreciate it when films take risks with endings, but in this case it clearly didn’t pay off. Its almost as if the filmmakers ran out of ideas and went with the most outlandish ending possible. Due to its unconventional ending, the film may not appeal to everyone.
Nevertheless, fans of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films will definitely enjoy “Phantom Thread” and so will anyone willing to watch it. It is one of those rare films that has been made for movie-goers seeking fresh and original entertainment. And in a Summer that has offered its fair share of forgettable films, I’m definitely one of them.