A 1950s period drama sets its heart on a toxic relationship between London couturier Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis), whose name is a tongue-in-cheek pun to any Reynolds clan, and a waitress Alma (Krieps), Paul Thomas Anderson’s eighth film PHANTOM THREAD poshly burrows into the murky dynamism of the co-exisentence between two disparate souls, it is a perspicacious critique excoriating the delusion of a perfect match in the gender politics.
Reynolds is a debonair bachelor, whose dresses are adored by London’s upper crust. Immersed in this female-objectification culture, his criteria of muse-selecting is strictly physical, which explains why he lays his eyes on the apparently inept Alma in the first place and conducts a sensuous measuring rite of initiation on her under the cold gaze of his sister Cyril (Manville), who oversees his affluent business.
It is very difficult to not fall under Reynolds’ benignant spell, especially for the one hails from a lesser echelon (apropos of both gender and class), Alma accepts her potluck with a stunned amazement, waltzing around in Reynolds’ resplendent artifacts and believes she is the luckiest girl in the world, until the inevitable personality differences cast a long shadow on their budding fondness. Reynolds is the typical self-obsessed, anal-rentive kind, who is used to be idolized on a pedestal by his worshippers, inveterately wrought within his own mode of life, therefore he has a very low tolerance to any distractions (table manners do matter). Alma has to learn the lesson in a hard way as her rustic charm starting to pall in flouting Reynolds’ self-centered directives (some backchat emerges and a bespoke home dinner to celebrate his birthday goes off the rail) and she is in the danger of being ousted, as many a woman before her.
As seemingly dew-eyed as her, Alma defies our expectation in her wits and wiles, a bold experiment with poisonous mushrooms gets her an upper hand in the situation and even prompts Reynolds’ heartfelt marriage proposal, which she knows all too well that she is unable to refuse because it is as scarce as hen’s teeth. When nuptial excitement plateaus, their co-habitation reverts back to the strain-ridden normalcy, Alma must again push the reset button, but this time, with Reynolds in the know, the entire third act is an ode to thesadomasochistic facet of a long-standing relationship that is clandestinely exclusive of any third party’s voyeurism, and the revelation coasts with utterly levelheaded poise and candor under PTA’s unflinching guidance andJonny Greenwood’s comping score, which incubate with an air of glamorous decadence draping over the whole process.
Of course, kudos also should apportioned to the key players, Daniel Day-Lewis, in his alleged last acting gig, is overtly well in his wheelhouse as the chic-dissing dressmaker, leaving his indelible footsteps practically anywhere in betweenangel and demon, an Oscar-nomination is a dead-cert when Reynolds’ egoism, vulnerability and expertise are that rivetingly magnified through his performance, he is the sole living legend who ladles out his thespian talent only in the name of art and nothing else, and his screen presence will be painfully missed (if he will not walk back his retirement).
In a more unexpected regard,Vicky Krieps bowls viewers over for her career-boosting turn not just by holding court in front of Mr. Day-Lewis, but also reifying the characterization of an ostensibly blasé role equipped with profound complexity, her Alma is brimming withtransfixing agency, petulance and fortitude. A glacial Lesley Manville, granted with her hard-earned first Oscar nomination, taking a back seat mostly with passing glances in silence, is the omnipresent on-looker who doesn’t debase herself into the ongoing fray aside from terse rejoinders, but anyone has a scintilla of horse sense knows that Cyril is the real deal one should never trifle with.
Reverting to its title, PHANTOM THREAD points up a cardinal metaphor in its sartorial reference, reminds us there is something invisible, immaterial that weaves together our own existence with resultant individuality and originality, self-introspection should be a daily practice in achieving a possible satori of lucidity.
referential points: Paul Thomas Anderson’s INHERENT VICE (2014, 6.3/10), THE MASTER (8.9/10), THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007, 8.8/10).