March 4, 2018

Phantom Thread (2017)

Vicky Krieps, Daniel Day Lewis, Lesley Manville


Romance means different things to different people, I suppose. For instance, this movie. Or Fifty Shades of Grey. Both are classified as romances, and yet...

Yes, I compared the Best Picture Oscar-nominated Daniel Day Lewis/Paul Thomas Anderson British "romance" with the Twilight fan fic that fetishizes BDSM. And I say it with a completely straight face.

They are both about abusive relationships. In both movies, at least one of the participants is controlling, manipulative, and coercive to the other. Yet we are expected to watch one of them and declare it romantic and wonderful and worthy of the title of Best Picture of the Year. Why? Because it stars the great Daniel Day Lewis? Because it has beautiful costume design? Because it is set to an incredible score? Nope, nope, nope.

Perhaps Paul Thomas Anderson was trying to make a statement about toxic relationships. And if that's the case, I don't think the statement was clear enough. It had a Gone Girl quality to it and not in a good way. Both people in the relationship were extremely damaged and I'm not sure what message I'm supposed to be getting out of their interactions with each other. Literally the only semi-likable person in the entire movie is Lesley Manville, who gives the least bothersome performance as Reynold's sister, Cyril.

All in all, this movie felt like it was trying to hard to be deep--flanked by the score, design, and big-name actors--with only the thinnest of plots to back it up. It's all fluff, peppered by a few contentious scenes. In thinking about my reaction to another Paul Thomas Anderson movie, The Master (not to mention Punch Drunk Love and Magnolia), I wonder how I ever enjoyed There Will Be Blood. It seems like every single one of his movies is exactly like this. Which I guess is convenient, since I know now to avoid them in the future.

Final word: The window dressing on this is beautiful, just don't try to look inside.

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