Tay’s review published on Letterboxd:
christ. i left my watch at home and i’m glad i did because otherwise i would’ve checked it god knows how many times.
2017 was nothing if not a year of cathartic cinema. Phantom Thread, unfortunately, was stiflingly dull. i would really just like to have some semblance of understanding what the fucking point of this is. i mean it. i want to know, i want to understand.
because right now i don’t know what to do with a film that asks its audience to gawk at miserable people being miserable to one another. i can’t even say this film never moves beyond its status quo, because it never really establishes a status quo, at least, not one that is interesting to me. it’s not accurate for me to say that the characters are underdeveloped when they’re barely more than ideas or vague outlines. the beautiful costuming and lush score are not enough to substitute for character, for narrative, and for purpose. you can shortchange some things for the sake of aesthetic, sure. you can forego something in favor of an abstraction. but for there to be nothing with motive or reason just made for a very frustrating and exhaustive viewing experience.
the stakes are non-existent. maybe that's part of my problem. Vicky Krieps carries this, so i just wish Alma had any sort of background or motivation for staying with her dickish, childish version of Tim Gunn. DDL is good, but honestly, not particularly transformative, but also Reynolds is one of the most insufferable characters i've ever had to watch. there is no economic pressure. there is no cultural crossing or climbing. there is not an issue of race, or sex, or gender, or... anything. and there wouldn't necessarily need to be, if there was anything else at all, but i'm left with not a whole lot, so instead i'm looking for anything else that could've been. i don't know what this film was getting at about obsessions, or compulsions, or grief, or even potentially mental illness... but wherever it arrived left me feeling really uneasy, and even kind of fucking shitty about myself.
i can begin to see where and what people appreciate about this. it is beautiful. the shots are meticulously set up. in 70mm, it is overwhelming how precise PTA has orchestrated his vision. but i feel as though i was asked to stare at a very large painting for two hours — i’d be happy to do it for five minutes, i could see it as an exercise in abstraction or postmodernism or commentary on something contemporary for an hour, but for two fucking hours???? i was reminded of Song to Song, but with Malick’s effort, i was able to come to some conclusion that he constructed his film in such a way to mirror the way memories are constructed and distorted. with this i… i fucking have nothing! i want something!! i will take anything, really. i’m just afraid there’s nothing more than a very beautiful and well-scored iteration of Psycho or Gone Girl, though.
this won’t be my last PTA, but i am disappointed it was my first.