Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Phantom Thread (2018) - Movie Review latest from auteur Paul Thomas Anderson is a curious venture. The story of a meticulous and rather dickish fashion designer, played by Daniel Day-Lewis in his final film role, it carries a likewise meticulous approach to visuals. Beyond just the immaculate costume design and pristine musical score, there’s an overwhelming sense of the ornate throughout this whole production. It looks, and feels, like few other films I’ve taken time to cover on this blog, for both good and somewhat perplexing reasons.

Day-Lewis’ Reynolds, as a character, is quite fascinating in how he is presented, shown as someone obsessed with finite details and operating under a strict schedule that causes him distress if it deviates in any way. Rather than just entirely jump the shark and wonder if there’s elements of the autistic in this personage, I’ll leave it simply at how there’s definitely some personally-familiar aspects to this characterisation. Whether he’s fussing over his food or outright telling a doctor to fuck off, his brutishness is (mostly) balanced out by the plentiful sense of humour on display in Anderson’s scripting.

And opposite him, Vicky Krieps as his muse and eventual lover is… complicated. Her performance is stellar, and it’s a credit to her that she manages to match Day-Lewis’ intensity this well, but her character makes even Reynolds look straight-forward by comparison. Strong-willed, bloody-minded and possibly a bit deranged, she works as a surprisingly good counterpoint to Reynolds’ rather unsavoury mannerisms. The resulting romance between them is fascinating in a quite clinical sense, showing a wealth of genuine romantic tension (they feel like a real couple, warts and all) and somehow making that fit alongside the factitious disorder antics that keep weaving in and out of the narrative.

This is honestly kind of bizarre in how it portrays both drama and all-out melodrama with this straight a face, turning the core relationship over time into something positively screwy. It’s like seeing a realisation of the original ending for Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, where Joel and Clementine spend decades in an endless cycle of emotionally damaging behaviour. I should not be as invested as I wound up being in regards to their ultimate fate as a couple… and yet, something about this still manages to work.

Maybe it’s a Gone Girl situation where two truly troubled people end up deserving each other’s brand of abusive actions in the end, or maybe it’s just presented with so much gusto that it’s impossible to resist in spite of that. Regardless, as a look at one of the more bewildering romances of the year (or, technically, of the last couple years, since this originally came out in 2017 and only reached Australian screens at the start of this year), it’s definitely an engaging sit. Daniel Day-Lewis sure picked one hell of a role to bow out with.

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