Phantom Thread ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I'll admit it, I didn't get into Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread quite as much as I hoped to, but with its particular pedigree, can you really blame me? After all, not only is it the new film from director Paul Thomas Anderson, a man who seems to have become the auteur's auteur of modern American film, not only is it his first collaboration with Daniel Day-Lewis since they made 2007's absolutely epic, monolithic drama of American greed There Will Be Blood, but it's also (only supposedly, I hope) Lewis's final film role ever, capping off over three decades of being one of Hollywood's most venerated (and selective) thespians, with three (count 'em, three!) Best Actor Oscars to his name, a streak that remains an all-time record for the category.

So, taking all of this into consideration, I hope you'll forgive me if I found Phantom Thread to be just a bit too slow-moving at times, and overall somewhat demure and restrained dramatically, which prevented it from becoming as engrossing as I hoped it would be. Although, all of that being said, Thread is still a pretty intriguing relationship drama in its own right, with a couple of turns in the story I absolutely did not expect; its tale of the strange, Hitchcock-ian relationship that develops between Reynolds Woodcock, a controlling, exacting couture fashion designer living in 1950s London, and Alma Elson, a naive but willful waitress he discovers in the British countryside, and the way she upsets his meticulous, perfectly-ordered life when she becomes his go-to model, creative muse, and (sort of) love interest, is a fairly odd one, but in the best sense of that word, as the ways in which their relationship at first grows to be figuratively toxic, and then literally, is easily the film's most intriguing individual element by far (and no, I don't mean that in the way that you're guessing).

This is a relatively calm, quiet sort of drama, with a lot of the emotions being conveyed through various passive-aggressive comments, jealous, furtive looks, and uncomfortable body language, but that is part of the point here, as it's the way the film shows Alma upsetting Reynolds' orderly little life simply by refusing to let him control and alter her like he does his dresses. It's a rather placid film, made up of lovingly detailed, tactile close-ups, fittingly sumptuous costume and production design, and Johnny Greenwood's lovely, elegantly classical film score, but more importantly, it's about the journey of watching the central relationship grow and sour (and grow again) over the course of the 2+ hour running time, a journey that I didn't regret taking. So, while Phantom Thread wasn't not quite as good as I hoped it would be, it's still pretty memorable nonetheless, and a worthwhile effort from Mr. Anderson, in the end.

Final Score: 8