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"PHANTOM THREAD"
(2017) (Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A highly meticulous fashion designer who lives by his daily routines finds all of that in upheaval when his muse turned romantic partner won't play by his rules.
PLOT:
It's the 1950s and Reynolds Woodcock (DANIEL DAY-LEWIS) is a highly sought-after fashion designer who caters to a variety of well-to-do clients. He's meticulous at his craft and lives by a highly regimented daily routine that his sister and business manager, Cyril (LESLEY MANVILLE), fiercely guards. Accordingly, she has no issue when he decides he's done with his latest girlfriend once she's begun to annoy him through her behavior.

But that doesn't stop his roving eye and once he sets sights on a young waitress, Alma (VICKY KRIEPS), he's instantly smitten. He whisks her away and back to his immense home and workspace where she initially serves as his fashion muse but then eventually becomes his girlfriend. Like those before her, however, her actions eventually start to wear on him and their relationship appears to be on the rocks. But she won't give up on them and decides she'll do whatever it takes to break him out of his routine and make him hers forever.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
A friend recently posted a video showing an 11-year-old blues guitarist prodigy who has the sound and performance moves of someone who's been around for decades. While some people hate such prodigies -- probably because they make them feel inadequate in terms of talent -- I enjoy the heck out of watching anyone who's near or at the top of their game in whatever their chosen hobby or vocation might be.

Who didn't enjoy watching Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods when they were at their peak and seemingly unstoppable? The same goes for performers like Elvis, The Beatles, Michael Jackson or Bruce Springsteen. It's simply entertaining and often awe-inspiring to watch masters at work.

The same holds true for those in the movie business, be they writers like Aaron Sorkin or directors such as Steven Spielberg, but the most visible individuals are, natch, the actors. While some who've made it big aren't necessarily that talented or seem to prefer quantity over quality when it comes to film roles, it's easy to pick out the best.

And among those on the XY chromosome side of things, one of my favorites is Daniel Day-Lewis. The 60-year-old performer is the only male to have ever won three Oscars in the lead performance category, and I'd watch him reading the phone book as he observes grass growing and paint drying as he's simply so good that I know he'd somehow make that fascinating to behold.

He's now up for his potential fourth win (and seventh overall nomination) for his work in "Phantom Thread," a role he states will be his last after officially announcing his retirement in 2017. Whether that proves to be true will only come with the passage of time, but the publicity-shy actor has no problem taking long hiatuses between films, and he's only made seven in the past twenty years.

In this film that reunites him with his "There Will Be Blood" director Paul Thomas Anderson (who also wrote this original screenplay and has received a directing Oscar nom for his work here), Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a renowned fashion designer of the 1950s who creates attire for his well-to-do clients. Like the man playing him, Reynolds is a master of his craft, but his perfectionism also extends into his personal life and day to day routine.

His sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville -- Oscar-nominated for her role), who manages his business affairs doesn't seem to mind, and she has no problem with him sending his latest girlfriend/muse packing when she's served her purpose and now only comes off as an irritant to him.

Like most tortured artists, he's ready for his next victim - um, person who will inspire him -- and she comes in the form of waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps) who initially doesn't realize what she's getting into but enjoys the fruits of being yanked into his high profile world. Of course, he quickly grows tired of her and her interruptions to his routine. But she comes up with a unique way of making him hers, but professionally and romantically.

Those expecting the performance fireworks that Day-Lewis has brought to the screen in past roles (such as "Lincoln," "There Will Be Blood" and "Gangs of New York") might be frustrated to one degree or another by the very meticulous and restrained work he delivers here. And in terms of plot, that somewhat follows suit as the storyline is meager at best (and in my opinion is the film's weakest element).

What makes it compelling to watch however, are the performances by the three leads and how their characters interact with one another. Day-Lewis imbues his with levels of nuance that make the character hypnotic to behold. Manville steals every scene she's in with her steely all work and no play demeanor (that still manages to be entertaining), while Krieps is engaging as the outsider who manages to break through the defenses the siblings have established (while the actress should finally break through and become known stateside after a career of mostly working in European films).

Tech credits are exquisite throughout, with the costuming (by Mark Bridges) obviously getting lots of love and attention. Mark Tildesley's production design looks wonderful, and Anderson's un-credited cinematography captures all of that as well as those who appear in those "threads" in all of their glory.

While I would have preferred a stronger and more substantial and powerful story and lead character for him to go out on, if this is indeed Day-Lewis' swan song before leaving us and the world of moviemaking for good, he's certainly going out on an up note. Good but not stellar like some of his past films, "Phantom Thread" nonetheless rates as a 6.5 out of 10.




Reviewed December 4, 2017 / Posted January 26, 2018


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