Recently, I was forced to watch Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread.
At first, I was reluctant to go because I had seen the trailer and read about this old man in a relationship with a young woman. Never been a fan of Woody Allen either. I thought to myself “eh, creepy…not seeing that” but my girlfriend said she’d skin me alive if I don’t go. I’m just kidding, it was worse. She threatened to burn my Batman comic book collection.
So, like the poor, cute baby cow that I often resemble, I was dragged into this cinematic slaughterhouse.
Final call for SPOILERS!
Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a well-established tailor who specializes in creating gorgeous and extravagant dresses for the female bourgeois demographic of 1940s London. His clientele includes European royalty, so, yeah, unless you’re a hotshot fashion designer or a coke dealer, he’s not a character many of us can relate to. He also lives with his sister Cyril, played by Leslie Manville, who is also his right-hand-woman.
Manville…white people, must your names be as colorless as you?
Reynolds Woodcock, stop imagining that you sicko, meets and eventually falls in love with Alma, played by Vicky Krieps.
Fun Fact: Day-Lewis, whilst mocking Reynolds’ character, used the name Woodcock. Anderson supposedly cracked up so hard, he decided that would be the final surname for Reynolds.
Reynolds has severe mommy issues, control issues, toxic misogynistic tendencies, and most likely erectile dysfunction.
Alma is worse.
Vicky Krieps krieped her way into the plot by foolishly catering to Reynolds Woodcock’s curiosity. He first saw the WWII Jewish refugee in a diner and, at first glance, began to salivate like a Pavlovian dog to the sound of bells.
She walks over, asks for his order and flashes her ever so innocent smile — one that attracts old men and pedophiles alike.
Woodcock then pulls a macho big boy move by ordering a fatty banquet for breakfast that would even make Chris Farley shake his head in disgust. Rest in peace big guy, without your comic genius we’ve all been stuck with Kevin Hart and the roided Samoan equivalent of David Spade, Dwayne Johnson. What a horrible duo!
Woodcock asks her for a date, she replies with a written note on a napkin that reads: “for the hungry boy, my name is Alma.”
They date, she moves in, sister Cyril also has mommy issues, so it becomes a series of annoying moments for all characters…just like this sentence, where I’ve exhausted the best conjoining tool in the English language, the comma, you’re welcome.
The unholy trinity of Reynolds, Alma and Cyril becomes all too complicated when Alma falls in love with Reynolds. It slowly but surely becomes a psychological hellhole for everyone involved, especially enthusiastic movie buffs in the audience. Alma, in her master plan to break through Reynolds’ ‘I only love my mommy and no other woman’ barrier, asks Cyril for the house to be emptied for a romantic dinner.
When all the seamstresses and Cyril were out and about, hello Canada, Reynolds returns from his Thursday night walk to the eager welcome of Alma. She had cooked for him asparagus with “too much butter”. Reynolds and Alma fight over dinner where they both express their frustrations about their horrendously toxic relationship.
“You are incapable of loving me, why are you being like this?” asks Alma, or something more subtle as to move this sorry plot.
“I want my privacy to work on my dresses, I don’t need you, this is my house and I hate butter.” screams Reynolds, or something less subtle as to shit on the art of screenwriting.
Alma picks some poisonous mushrooms — and serves them to Reynolds in tea form. He gets terribly ill. She gets a power trip. He becomes pitiful. She offers a lending hand.
Gaslighting via mushroom…genius! Genius, I tell ya! Give them 6 Oscar nominations!
Reynolds, now like a punted puppy in need of severe affection, is coddled by Alma who makes sure this fragile maniac remains fragile.
Reynolds knows what’s happening and he fucking enjoys it!
He falls out of love and into enamorement, instantly recanting his closeted ways and jumping into marriage. The cycle continues, this on and off reclusive cowardice, and so does Alma’s habit of poisoning him.
I won’t spoil the ending for you and I’m tired of thinking about the overly minimalist plot. It is unclear if Reynolds dies or not…I dunno, you watch it and tell me what you think.
Fun fact 2: this is the second movie where Day-Lewis plays a character who marries a waitress.
What I Wanted To See
Simple. It’s fucking simple. Just one thing is all. One teeny-tiny thing and all this woe could’ve been avoided.
One thing: — A better movie.
Instead, I had to suffer through the movie whilst pretending to like it so that my girlfriend wouldn’t get mad at me. True love and sacrifice.
However, I must say that the dialogue was a great redeeming factor for me. There were parts where my smile or laughter was organic and the acting itself was superb on everyone’s part. The plot, I felt, lacked in its hard hitting themes despite those themes being there. There were plenty of times were it was just nonsensical subtlety that left the movie too open-ended and too loose for it to be memorable.
It wasn’t memorable.
And I hope this isn’t your last movie, Daniel. What a shame that would be.
What does that mean? It means I enjoyed it enough to be haunted by it and to write about it. What else does it mean? It means I wouldn’t lose any sleep if I go on with life without ever revisiting Phantom Thread.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment with my psychiatrist.
Alexa, call mother.