Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest marks a fitting final bow for three-time Oscar winner Daniel Day Lewis
“Phantom Thread” is a twisted love story that is as meticulous and exacting as the man at its center.
That man is Reynolds Woodcock, played with quiet, otherworldly fury by Daniel Day Lewis in what he says is his final screen performance. He isn’t barking mad the way he was in his previous collaboration with writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson, “There Will Be Blood,” but he doesn’t need to be. Here the madness is all below the surface, and Day Lewis keeps it bottled up, simmering and bubbling like a volcano ready to blow.
Woodcock is a fashion designer — nay, the fashion designer — in 1950s London. He sews secrets into the lining of his dresses, hidden messages that only he knows, and in that way, he’s a stand-in for Anderson and the meanings behind his work. “Phantom Thread” works as a study of creation and the creative mind the same way “Mother” did for Darren Aronofsky; toss those two movies back-to-back for a thrilling double feature and a peek inside the minds of two of today’s most audacious filmmakers.
Woodcock’s world is thrown askew when he meets a clumsy waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps is a revelation), and they begin a courtship. Alma is warned by Woodcock’s sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), to keep her distance so as not to disrupt his work. She doesn’t listen. And so begins a tangled tale of love and obsession that veers into the realm of the darkly comic.
“Phantom Thread” is Anderson’s most quiet work, and perhaps his most layered. If this is indeed the end for Day Lewis, it is a fitting final bow. It’s a treat to watch him drink your milkshake one last time.
Rated R for language
Running time: 130 minutes