Phantom Thread (2017)
It's R-rated mostly because people are cruel to one another. There's some nudity and sexuality. It's not uber in-your-face, but it is there. Also, the f-bomb is a favorite word of Reynolds Woodcock. He loves it. He almost loves the f-word as much as he hates the sound of toast being buttered. R.
DIRECTOR: Paul Thomas Anderson
I love Paul Thomas Anderson movies. Even with my fairly prudish self, I even love Boogie Nights. Anderson makes amazing movies and when one of his films is announced, that's the one I know I have to see. It was weird, then, that when I saw the trailer for Phantom Thread, nothing really jumped out at me. I knew it was Paul Thomas Anderson. If anything, that was one of the few things I was confident about. I knew that Paul Thomas Anderson had directed it and that Daniel Day Lewis was going to be in it, but that was it. I thought that avoiding any info about it might get me more in the mood. After all, my favorite Paul Thomas Anderson experiences were blind. Why shouldn't this one? I don't know what it was, but I wasn't excited to see it. I know that some of my Thomas Video friends had reservations about Phantom Thread. I can see why. While I can say that I liked it, it definitely felt different.
It took me a long time to realize what I was watching. It seemed like this was supposed to be a love story. Knowing what I do about Anderson, I know that he's not going to present the traditional love story and call it a day. But Reynolds Woodcock is an odd guy. It takes a while to figure out what his deal is and even about twenty minutes in, I had made peace that I only kind of get what makes him tick. He is a terrible person who is burdened with genius. I guess geniuses have to be terrible people. If Hollywood has taught me anything, it's that Meryl Streep will be nominated for everything and that geniuses are terrible people. It is off putting not knowing what a character's moral boundaries are. Perhaps that is also what makes Phantom Thread unique. The movie is a constant exploration of what this character's moral boundaries are. I like to know how far a character will go. When a character defies his moral code, the film presents complexity. Anderson relishes in complexity, but he breaks with expectation with Reynolds Woodcock. The film is not about a man breaking his own moral code. He does do that, in a way, but that is really secondary to the fact that he is uninterested in morality whatsoever. He is a man driven by obsession for perfection and has an almost autistic view of how humans play into that quest for perfection. It is a bit weird though. I know, this is close minded of me. But they are only dresses. Admittedly, the dresses look nice (I know little about dresses and I'm kind of okay with that). The idea that he is getting violently shaken about dresses is odd. But that also might be a bit of subtext for Anderson. For Woodcock, the dresses are everything. To many people, the dresses might be everything. But for most people, the dresses are simply very pretty. I am the drunken bride wearing his dress (forever burned into your heads). I cannot possibly understand his madness because it is precisely his madness. That's why Alma kind of works for him. She understands his madness, given time.
One of the review blurbs that the movie publishes is that it is "funny" or "hilarious". That is accurate, from a certain point of view. Lauren and I found ourselves belly laughing at part, but at no time was there a single real joke in the movie. Woodcock and Alma have the most serious relationship of all time. I kind of wonder what their attraction is. Why would anyone want to be in that relationship? I guess people get into abusive relationships all of the time, but there is usually something to base it off of. I imagine that the power dynamic might be attractive to some. After all, Woodcock has a very specific fame and Alma's life, to her, seemed small. But he's terrible to her. That's oddly where the humor comes from. There's a tipping point where the cruelty just gets out of hand. Woodcock becomes so mean that it actually becomes funny. I know, it sounds like I'm a bad person. But my wife was laughing really hard too and she's only kind of a bad person. Out of the many MANY movies I've watched this year, the only movie I've really been quoting since seeing it has been Phantom Thread. From here, I just have to speculate about Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson is a genius. He often makes movies about big personalities and takes things to such a shocking level. He doesn't make these movies to be shocking. They just happen to shock because he's exploring souls or something. It's always hard to criticize geniuses because they are oh-so-smarter than me. I'm not saying that as a bad thing or a thing of self-esteem. I'm saying that there are people that I know are way smarter than me and Paul Thomas Anderson is probably on that list. He had to see the turn that the movie was making. It was probably in the edit. There was this moment when Anderson probably loved how absurd the whole thing was getting and leaned hard into that. Also, as much as I disapprove of this in reality, cruelty in film can sometimes be funny. It is something that we hopefully don't see very often. It almost might be a reflection on the viewers' lifestyles. If you are accustomed to cruelty, that scene plays out like a Greek tragedy. If your life is blissful, like mine (jealous? Wait. I AM a bad person), then the scene is absolutely absurd. Anderson, you got me again!
It's been reported that this is Daniel Day-Lewis's final screen performance. He's retiring at 60. He's really good in this. He's really good. But I don't know if it is his finest performance. That's difficult because he delivered a perfect performance in practically everything he's been in. He's infamous for inhabiting roles. He never messes up, but there are moments where I'm just watching Daniel Day-Lewis be weird. Often, I didn't see Reynolds Woodcock. He was doing a voice, again. I don't know why he always needs to do a voice, but that voice was extremely distracting. As amazing as he is, there are still tricks that he is using and I don't always know if that's the best decision. But again, he's awesome. He's probably going to win Best Actor as a tribute thing for his retirement. It's how it works. Alma, played by Vicky Krieps, (spooky pun not intended) really might be the protagonist of this movie. You know what? I'm saying she is. It is from her perspective and she has the goal to achieve, so she's the protagonist. I just realized that, by the way. It's what happens when there is such a big personality in the movie that the protagonist gets overshadowed. Regardless, Krieps is great. She's got the range of emotions in there. Day-Lewis vacillates between annoyed with everyone and full on angry. There are two moments in the movie when he is happy. One of the times, it is a show. The other time, it is a reaction. Those moments are important, but Krieps's character has to really make gutsier choices. It's a shame that she's going to fall under the radar because she's acting across from Daniel Day-Lewis. She's really good. They're both good, how about that?
My wife left the movie not sure if she liked it or what she thought of it. That might be the most fair assessment of the movie. It isn't necessarily a fun movie, but it is something that you have to kind of absorb. My opinion shouldn't matter. I liked it a lot, but if you didn't...that makes total sense. It's not a polarizing movie. It's just how the movie rubs you.
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