Phantom Thread Review: Anderson and Day-Lewis Can't Recapture 'There Will Be Blood' Magic

I couldn't hook into the movie, despite all it had going for it.
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When Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis joined forces previously, they created There Will Be Blood. That film is a stone-cold masterpiece, one of the best of this millennium. There was no way that Phantom Thread was going to equal There Will Be Blood, but every Anderson movie is worth getting excited over. Plus, with the murmurings that this would be Day-Lewis' final film, how could movie lovers not be intrigued? One of our greatest directors and perhaps our greatest living actor making his potential curtain call? Sign me up.

However, I will admit that when I saw the trailer for Phantom Thread, some of my enthusiasm waned. A movie about a fashion designer in 1950s London just isn't up my alley. I was still interested, because a movie about the porn industry in the '70s also didn't necessarily grab me but Boogie Nights was great, but it just didn't feel like it was going to resonate with me. Still, I knew I had to watch it. Anderson films are appointment viewing. If anybody could make a movie about vintage haute couture interesting, it's good ol' P.T.

After I finished Phantom Thread, I was left with plenty to chew on. My first thought was "Well…that was certainly a movie." It just sort of washed over me, which is neither criticism nor laudation. What I had somewhat feared had happened. I couldn't hook into the movie, despite all it had going for it.

The film is sort of about fashion, but the fashion industry is really just a backdrop for…I can't say a love story, because whatever Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) and Alma Elson (Vicky Krieps) have, I hesitate to call it love. If it's love, maybe love isn't something I want to be a part of. Phantom Thread is really a movie about a terrible and selfish artistic genius and his suffering muse, and the weird co-dependent relationship they develop.

Is that interesting? At times, sure. The characters were engaging and complex, but that doesn't mean I enjoyed spending over two hours with them. It always just felt a bit off. Now, There Will Be Blood is about a truly abhorrent man, but Daniel Plainview is electric and dynamic and the film captures his essence in a riveting way. Day-Lewis sank into the role and created an iconic performance that rightfully earned a Best Actor Oscar. Reynolds and Alma are no Daniel Plainviews. They aren't even Eli Sundays.

That being said, the movie looks great. Anderson is a true genius when it comes to shooting a film, and the period setting, and fashion focus, gave him a ton to work with. That's something I enjoyed having wash over me, even if I have no interest in fashion. Day-Lewis is also great, as always, even if he doesn't have as much to work with as in other movies. He got a nomination for Best Actor, and though he didn't win, that seems fair. Lesley Manville was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Cyril, Reynolds' sister and business partner.

In the end, I suppose Phantom Thread is good. I mean, it was definitely made with care and it is a film of high quality. It also seems to have barely any story, and the story there is doesn't grab me. I guess, in the end, what I would say is this: Anderson is great, Day-Lewis is great, and that's enough to make any movie worthwhile.

For a prestige film, there is a fair amount of extras on the Bluray. You can see camera tests (with audio commentary from Anderson himself!) and behind-the-scenes photos with a demo of Johnny Greenwood's score. On the other hand, the deleted scenes I did not bother with, as this was not necessarily a movie I was jonesing for more of.

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