Paul Thomas Anderson is an interesting case study for me because he makes me consider my film critic cred. People across the industry laud this guy for almost everything he does, but I am very hit-and-miss with his work. Films like “Boogie Nights” and “There Will Be Blood” I get the greatness of, but stuff like “Magnolia” (which required me to hunt through the Trivia page on IMDB to truly understand all of), “Punch-Drunk Love” (which was just painful to get through), and Inherent Vice (which fell WAY short for me) I just could not get on board with. By the same token, maybe that helps my credibility on the level that I do try to review films with a foot in both worlds of the critic and the every man.
In his latest film (which he also wrote), he jumps back to 1950s London to tell the tale of sought-after designer Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis). After designing his latest dress for European royalty, he decides to head out to the country to get away, followed by his sister and partner, Cyril (Lesley Manville). While there, he meets a waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps), who he becomes smitten with and takes her in. With her free spirited youth and rebellious heart, his set-in-his-ways lifestyle is challenged, and so is hers.
It has been reported that this will be the last film for Daniel Day-Lewis, as he is retiring from acting. As per normal, he is nothing short of brilliant here, playing the eccentric designer with deeply seeded family issues that is not used to anyone coming up against him. Krieps is able to go toe-to-toe with him, which really feeds both characters, and Manville is the great middle between them. The issue here is that this film is simply WAY too long. Clocking in at two hours and fifteen minutes, there are just too many points that nothing is really happening to the point where it felt like Anderson was just running camera for his actors to improve Malick style. The chemistry here is strong enough, but not from a pacing standpoint.
My other problem with “Phantom Thread” is that it seems to not know what kind of film it wants to be. Anderson shoots it with a ‘60s French influence but it also meanders into Merchant Ivory, Hitchcock (accompanied by an enhancing score by Jonny Greenwood), and mid-‘80s dramatic styles as well that turns into a train wreck that can make things tough to follow. There is a bit of time jumping that happens, which gets a bit disorienting, but not too badly. It is the wandering of styles that Anderson is known for, but it is also where my “meh”-ness of him also tends to come from.
I can understand the nominations that this film got from the Golden Globes, and it will probably nab a couple of nods when the Oscars announce their nominations very soon, but as a complete body of work, I don’t feel it’s strong enough for any of the “big awards”. If this is truly Day-Lewis’ swan song, it is a strong exit, but mostly on his part.