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With: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville
Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
MPAA Rating: R for language
Running Time: 130
Date: 12/25/2017

Phantom Thread (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Sew Good

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Paul Thomas Anderson has at last taken time out from films that are trying to "say something" and returned, for the first time since Punch-Drunk Love, to a film about people; this is one of his best, most beautiful, and most perverse works.

In Phantom Thread, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a titan of the fashion world of London in the 1950s. He dresses everyone from stars of stage and screen to royalty. He likes absolutely everything just so, and his stern, commanding sister, and business partner, Cyril (Lesley Manville) does her best to make sure nothing changes.

One day, while temporarily escaping the big city, he slips into a little diner and is entranced by a clumsy waitress, Alma (Vicky Krieps). He invites her to his home and dresses her, then keeps her around as a mannequin and muse. But as she starts to become just another one of his conquests, she decides that she won't go down so easily and begins to assert her own kind of control over the relationship. Could this be love?

Presented elegantly and slowly, Phantom Thread moves around Woodcock's glorious mansion and workspace, taking in all his intricate threadwork and admiring every drape and fold of the materials. It's Jonny Greenwood's score that provides the sinister, anxious quality that lurks just under the exquisite surface. In certain ways, the movie is almost Hitchcockian.

Stripped of makeup or mannerisms, Day-Lewis gives something close to a basic, human performance, but still commanding; his seductive use of masculinity recalls his earlier role in Philip Kaufman's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Manville stands out as well, locking up her passions into a starchy, austere character, but still capable of doing so much with her eyes and her sour line readings.

It's refreshing that the movie stays away from hysterics or major plot twists; it stays largely within the house and largely upon these three characters as they subtly try to one-up each other's level of power. It's a grand movie, but also subtle and mischievous.

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