“Marriage would make me deceitful and I don’t ever want that…”
When put on the spot about my favourite films, the first that come to mind are Mallrats, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones and Star Wars. Pushed a little further I might add The Big Lebowski or Halloween. This got me to thinking. While most of those films are universal, they are also aimed at a juvenile audience. I don’t mean that as a slight obviously, just that you don’t have to think about them too much to enjoy them. While I have appreciated films like Schindler’s List and 12 Years A Slave, I never normally watch them twice. I guess you would describe it as prestige cinema. Cinema for adults. Not Adult Cinema which is a different thing entirely…
I have seen and loved most of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films, going right back to Boogie Nights, but his most recent output has left me a little puzzled. I didn’t enjoy The Master and I didn’t like the look of Inherent Vice and so to Phantom Thread. Obviously, any time that Daniel Day Lewis appears in a film it is an exciting time for movie buffs everywhere. The last time Day Lewis showed his face was for Lincoln, another prestige piece that earned the legendary actor an Oscar. As with all his films, Phantom Thread sees him take on a new role entirely.
Reynolds Woodcock (Day Lewis) is a fastidious and renowned dress maker who has to confront some uncomfortable truths when presented with Alma (Vicky Krieps). The pair’s twisted love affair is overseen by Woodcock’s sister Cyril (Lesley Manville).
The first issue I had with Phantom Thread is that aside from the world weary Manville, all the other characters are lousy. Not badly written, just bad people. At times, the film recalled Wuthering Heights in as much as I had no idea who I was supposed to be rooting for. Perhaps that is the point?
Secondly, I much prefer Day Lewis when he is a bit more unhinged. He is way more entertaining when he is screaming about milkshake or running around with a butchers knife. If this is truly to be his last performance, as he himself has suggested, then it doesn’t really do the great man justice. He is still a compelling and dominant on screen force but there was nothing here to electrify as in previous roles. In many respects Krieps outshines him here with an enigmatic and multifaceted turn as the inscrutable Alma.
Thirdly, as with most PTA films, it is just too damn long. If you making me sit around for longer than 90 minutes, I need the movie to be a classic to justify that running time.
That being said, Phantom Thread is certainly unique and Johnny Greenwood’s score is beautiful, but there is a nagging feeling that this kind of cinema just isn’t for me. Maybe when I’ve stopped pretending and become an actual full blown adult then I will enjoy it. Until that time, I think I will stick to Back to the Future…