Monday, March 5, 2018

Oscar Review: Phantom Thread (2017)

* spoilers *

Eccentric fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock goes through phases of being enamored and inspired by a woman followed by being annoyed with the realities of a relationship and compromise that cycles over and over. Then he meets Alma a waitress, and they have a whirlwind romance and a marriage. When she moves in, the harsh reality of his controlling nature crashes down on her when she doesn't quite fit into his peculiar habits and well worn routines. It seems only a matter of time until he leaves Alma as they fight more and more.

I didn't know what to expect with Phantom Thread, but I enjoyed it more than I thought. Daniel Day Lewis plays Woodcock to an extreme level, imbuing him with manic energy and temper tantrums. The character is pretty awful, completely unable to change his routines at all. He uses women as inspiration and then drops them when they aren't the silent, compliant mannequins he wants. It's honestly hard to watch him with Alma because he doesn't hesitate to scream at her for the smallest perceived infraction. It's grossly accurate that he gets a pass on his behavior because of his success and brilliance as a fashion designer.

His sister Cyril is by far the most amazing character. She runs her brother's house and business so he can focus on the artistic side, but her role is a partner rather than an underling. She keeps his routines and habits because it's how he is most productive, which is good for the company. You might think that she's as cowed as everyone else, but that would be wrong. Whenever he becomes deluded, she is quick to verbally cut through him and it's clear that she would win any sort of battle of wits. Everything she says is always polite on the surface no matter what biting insult lies beneath. Her iron will, sarcasm, and sass are amazing and she grounds the film with her sensible nature.

Alma is an unexpected character. She started out as rather wide eyed and idealistic, but then refuses to be cowed by Woodcock's demands, throwing his schedule in disarray and leaving him lost. As he loses more and more interest in her, she continues to blaze her own trail and leave him behind if necessary. When he's at the breaking point, she poisons his tea with mushrooms and nurses him back to health, essentially resetting their relationship back to the honeymoonstage. After the second time she does this, she tells him about it and he accepts that this is simply another routine that must be done. For a normie movie, that's a pretty odd detail. I like that Alma didn't lose herself in him and Woodcock learned to compromise in his own bizarre way. My only criticism is that the film meandered near the end and felt about a half hour too long. Other than that, eveything from the aesthetics to the score to the acting were very well done.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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