When Phantom Thread debuted in theaters around the tail end of 2017, my thoughts about it were somewhere along the lines of “Meh. Looks boring. Pass.” However, upon realizing that it was directed by the celebrated Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love), I finally picked it up from the library, hoping it would far exceed my initial expectations. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. Guess my instincts sometimes really can be right after all.
The film’s frustratingly slow and disjointed plot (written by Anderson) follows Reynolds Woodcock, a talented fashion designer, as he meets the gentle foreign waitress Alma Elson and falls in love with her, only for them to start fighting because of how obsessive (read: borderline autistic) over his work and daily routine he is.For the record, I don’t mind more relaxed films (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, for example), but they have to have both a compelling story and a rewarding payoff, neither of whichPhantom Threadreally has.On top of all that, the characters and their actions, though certainly interesting, felt kinda inconsistent, and the 130-minute runtime is far too long for a film with such glacial pacing. Even Weathering With You (an anime film I recently saw that was gorgeously animated, but wasn't quite as accomplished in terms of its screenplay and characters) was less of a trudge than this.
As much as its narrative may fail,there’s no denying how much the film soars production-wise. Anderson is clearly a master director, and that extreme talent shows in nearly every single scene, be it through the unusual camera angles, stunning costume designs (which netted Phantom Thread's only Oscar win, despite all the other awards bestowed upon the film), and ravishing cinematography. That, along with the heart-stoppingly beautiful classical music and score (the latter composed by Radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood), helps the film through its dullness, but the fact that there is so much dullness in the first place is really unfortunate.
I really don’t like describing films as something I just didn’t “get”, but in this case, I’m going to have to make an exception: I didn’t get this movie. At least, not nearly as much as other critics seem to have (91% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave it a positive review, and Metacritic reported that their average ratings for it measured up to an impressively high 90/100). Good for them.
Note: Looking back on this film now after reviewing another one of PTA's films (the truly masterful There Will Be Blood), I realize that I may have been a tad bit harsh with this one, but can't change either my review or score of it now since it's been too long since I've seen it. Oh well.
Note #2: The reason why I said the characters and their actions were inconsistent was because [SPOILER ALERT] of Alma attempting to kill Reynolds by poisoning him, then eventually growing to love him again when he's lying sick in bed as a result, which confused me a lot. Maybe my opinions on that will change after watching the film a second time, but that's the way they are now, I guess.