Phantom Thread

It’s a shame there aren’t any directors I can rely on any more. I always looked forward to Alexander Payne movies, and then he gave us Downsizing last month. I used to look forward to Mike Mills movies, then he gave us 20th Century Women.

Every critic anxiously awaits Paul Thomas Anderson films. This is the guy that gave us Punch Drunk Love, Magnolia, and Boogie Nights. Then he goes and does the The Master, and the very disappointing Inherent Vice. The Master had a great performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Phantom Thread has yet another great performance from Daniel Day-Lewis as a tortured genius. It’s a shame we have to be the tortured audience for this.

It’s the early ‘50s and couture designer Reynolds Woodcock is the toast of the town. Everyone loves his work and royal families even seek him out. Fans come up to him in restaurants to sing his praises. His character seems to have OCD and probably Asperger’s. Yet we really don’t know. PT Anderson doesn’t bother to tell us a lot, and there’s very little dialogue.

When Woodcock decides an awkward waitress (Luxembourg actress Vicky Krieps) will be his next muse, he brings her back to his place after a first date. He makes her undress, tells her she has small breasts, and starts measuring her for a dress he’ll make. We know nothing about her family, and as the movie progresses, we wonder why she’d want to stay with this much older, difficult guy. You’re also left to wonder if he’s gay. He doesn’t seem all that interested in sex with this much younger beauty, and most of the fashion designers of that period were. Really, all we know is he lives with his sister (the always terrific Lesley Manville), misses his mom, and sews messages into clothing. You know the expression “I’d rather watch paint dry”? Well, watching a dress being sewed is about as exciting as watching paint dry. Perhaps I’m a little burned out after seeing two movies on Yves Saint Laurent in one year just a few years ago.

It’s a shame that, according to Daniel Day-Lewis, this is going to be his last film. For an actor this good to end on such a bad note. I wish it was Anderson’s last film. He clearly has lost his ability to make great films. He wastes interesting potential with this story – the relationship between designers and models, and what’s involved in making clothing — whether for a fashion statement or to wear daily.

This movie could’ve also been like Hitchcock’s Rebecca, but it squanders every remotely interesting set up.

There are nice costumes by longtime Anderson collaborator Mark Bridges, and unlike the score in There Will Be Blood by Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead), the music here works well.

So, you’re going to be asked to spend a few hours with a guy that’s abusive to women, and isn’t all that interesting.

I think I would’ve been more entertained watching Jar Jar Binks and the Phantom Menace more than Phantom Thread.

It gets 1 star out of 5.