Phantom Thread (2017)
January 16, 2018 10:53 PM - Subscribe

A 1950s period piece exploring the relationship triangle between couture dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), his sister and business partner Cyril (Lesley Manville), and Alma (Vicky Krieps), the woman Woodcock invites into his home to be his latest muse and model.
posted by Going To Maine (38 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I didn’t expect it to be so funny, and the twist killed me.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:54 PM on January 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

Kyle Buchanan interview Paul Thomas Anderson about the movie in Vulture: “Love, Death, and Control: Paul Thomas Anderson on Making Phantom Thread
posted by Going To Maine at 11:18 PM on January 16, 2018


So, preface: my friend and I wanted to watch Ladybird, but we didn't think it was still popular so didn't bother with advanced tickets. When we got to the small independent theater here in DC, Ladybird for our time was sold out. Then we tried to go see The Last Jedi (2nd time for me) at a bigger theater nearby, we tried to get tickets online but the only seats left were all the way up front and we didn't want to watch movies like that (side note: why do they even bother having those seats, the couple of times I've had to watch movies that up close were so miserable I swore I'd never do it again, ugh capitalism). So the cashier woman told us the only movie with plenty of seats left for our time slot was Phantom Thread. We asked her what it was about and she pretty much said it's about a dress maker and... (she trailed off).. and it's kind of about fashion. That wasn't a selling point for me, because I'm not versed in fashion and I wouldn't want to see a movie about it. But we both like Daniel Day Lewis, so we figured what the hell, maybe it won't be so bad with a beer.

I kind of missed the first two minutes or so because I was trying to get beers for us and I guess the trailers weren't as long as I expected, but apparently it wasn't that important (my friend said the main thing in that first scene is the girl called him "demanding", which I found out later is.. an understatement).

I also didn't expect it to be so funny. Like, some of the darkest humor I've seen recently. And I think the audience I was with felt the same. People laughed at very inappropriate points, but they were scenes where you couldn't tell if it was supposed to be funny. And that contributed a lot to the weirdness of it. The verbally abusive dialog was both terrible and hilarious. The tea interruption scene have a line that I hope to use in the future: "It's too late! The tea is going but the interruption is already here!" (paraphrasing)

Because everyone's trying to be polite / going along with societal pressure, I guessed whatever qualms people had about Woodcock as a character was kept quietly to themselves. Both my friend and I at different point turned to each other and said "WTF??" at one of the more abusive lines he said to Alma. Most of the time, you could hear a few chuckles at the ridiculousness of the character, almost like a coping mechanism of witnessing something awful, and some, like me, were probably laughing to deride the scene and the character. Like "lol you're an awful fucking person".

With that set up, the twist at the end had most people laughing at the pure insanity of it. And at that point, for me, it was a codependent love story built upon layers of abuse and harm, from both Woodcock and Alma, and it deserved to be ridiculed.

I found the acting to be pretty decent. I do like that DDL didn't hold back on the... villainy? Although I've heard it said that it was easier to let loose with such emotions when acting in this kind of drama than holding it just right to keep the status quo in sitcoms. I've never seen Krieps before but she was fine. I can't put my finger on what she could improve on but I also dunno if I want her to, it was almost as if a better actress might have made the role worse.

I am not a fashion person, but those dresses were really beautiful. I'd like to see this at least nominated for best costume design.
posted by numaner at 3:44 PM on January 17, 2018 [5 favorites]

In hindsight, plenty of PTA’s movies have jokes in them - there are little comic moments to go along with the odd silences, abrasive scoring, and meandering scripts that always seem like they are about to end and then continue for a few more pages. It’s just that the trailer was so completely serious, and that there really did seem to be more “jokes” per square inch than there had been since, I dunno, Boogie Nights or Punch-Drunk Love. And the reviews that I’ve seen haven’t really helped - they’ve been so darn hyperbolic about it being Daniel Day-Lewis’s last role, or about how the film is a “masterpiece”. It reads as so much flattery and so little comment on the content. I’ve barely seen the food get a mention, for instance, and the food is everywhere in this movie. (I saw one person mention that this was a movie about food on Twitter. One.) While the content is similar to what I was expecting, the execution is entirely different, and I’m so very happy to have been surprised.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:13 PM on January 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

And, of course, having made this comment I've completely neglected to note that Inherent Vice was rife with humor, notably the dentist's office / coke nonsense. But all of that humor was still expected. Here it was decidedly not. (The closest parallel in overall feel is I think The Master, and that one doesn't have nearly as many tee-hees.)
posted by Going To Maine at 11:32 PM on January 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

I saw one person mention that this was a movie about food on Twitter.

hahaha oh my god yes. * chews noisily *

i forgot to add: the issue with his mother felt unresolved. i kept expecting Chekov's mother's hair hidden in jacket lining to surface again.
posted by numaner at 1:05 PM on January 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

i have always found there will be blood to be hilarious. the ending, for christ’s sake.
posted by JimBennett at 6:05 PM on January 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

I thought Phantom Thread was pitch-perfect — confounding, dazzling, puzzling, exhilarating, frustrating, hilarious. Exquisitely photographed, elegantly written, carefully and incisively observed. Typically outsized Daniel Day-Lewis performance. Revelatory, career-making turn by Vicky Krieps. Lesley Manville, so consistently fine in those Mike Leigh films, also great here.

I saw one person mention that this was a movie about food on Twitter. One.

One of us is on the wrong Twitter, because mine has been smacking its lips over the Reynolds Woodcock breakfast order since mid-December.

Also, how crazy is it that this is the second film released in 2017 in which a woman poisons a man with mushrooms?
posted by Mothlight at 1:28 PM on January 19, 2018 [9 favorites]

Back to say that I think some people have looked at this and said, "Well, Reynolds Woodcock is clearly a bully and he's in an abusive relationship with Alma," and feel that it's really just another story of toxic masculinity writ large on the silver screen. But I like to look at it from Alma's point of view, too. Not to minimize her character (and the movie isn't terribly interested in her background) but she didn't have a whole lot going on in her former life. Reynolds Woodcock is an interesting and accomplished man whose life provides her a stimulating environment, even though he is nasty and borderline irredeemable in his apparent self-regard. And so Alma takes matters into her own hands and makes the relationship work. A little research into mycetismus and she brings him under control. The ending of the film is a mite ambiguous — whether it's happy or not depends on how confident you feel that she can keep up her end of the game — and faintly ridiculous in those machinations. (That's why people laugh! It's funny!) But it's kind of moving at the same time, especially if you can ever remember a time in your own relationship when you had to practice a little "fungal pharmacology" to bring your partner in line and help them remember why they fell for you in the first place. (I'm saying I've been together with my wife for 30 years, and I suspect I've eaten a little poison over that time.) When Reynolds and Alma are in the same groove, they elevate each other. That life together is worth saving.
posted by Mothlight at 2:24 PM on January 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was almost afraid to go see it, because the trailer was so promising. I was such a fan of There Will Be Blood.

I think what made it so interesting is that the two women in Reynolds's life are the ones who are really in charge, despite what he thinks, despite the power that he has as a man. When the sister and Alma decide that despite misgivings, they have each other's back, and Reynolds is no longer in control.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:23 PM on January 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

I like to look at it from Alma's point of view, too. Not to minimize her character (and the movie isn't terribly interested in her background) but she didn't have a whole lot going on in her former life. Reynolds Woodcock is an interesting and accomplished man whose life provides her a stimulating environment, even though he is nasty and borderline irredeemable in his apparent self-regard.

It occurs to me that this is the plot of Jane Eyre. (Though Woodcock has a rather different basket of neuroses than Rochester's, and Alma's portrayal sacrifices Jane's interiority for a greater degree of initiative.)
posted by Iridic at 6:33 PM on January 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

I saw this movie a couple weeks ago, and was confused about the doctor in the ending. Does the movie explain why Alma is confessing to him? Is the doctor a consenting part of their mushroom game?
posted by tinymegalo at 12:38 PM on January 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think the simplest read is that she enjoys explaining how it works. It's another power trip.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:58 PM on January 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thanks, Maine--that makes sense. It definitely adds to the feeling that the power has tilted back to Alma, and that her power might even extend beyond the Woodcocks.
posted by tinymegalo at 3:03 PM on January 21, 2018

So my wife was totally planning on making mushroom soup tonight but we decided to go to the movies instead.
posted by octothorpe at 7:02 PM on January 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

Jonny Greenwood needs to win the oscar for this score.
posted by octothorpe at 7:15 PM on January 27, 2018 [7 favorites]

I saw this last night, and nobody else laughed when I did, so reading this thread makes me feel more normal - thanks mefites.

I loved the use of color and motifs, specifically white (everything was white. Most clothing, walls, floor, house, Reynolds' hair, food to an extent), so crisp and intolerant of any "flaw". The scenes with the wedding dress at the end were almost hurting my eyes at points because of all the white. Now that I'm writing this, I realize that scenes where the women are featured are warmly colored -- Alma confessing to the doctor, the scene in the kitchen with the omelette, Reynolds' room being dark when he is ill.... Even Cyril's room is a dark teal.

The other thing that stood out to me was the perfectly droopy flowers everywhere. Beautiful floral arrangements, but none of them particularly fresh -- all with some signs of decay.
posted by Fig at 6:34 AM on February 4, 2018 [5 favorites]

I thought it was trying to do a "ha ha you are going to complain that this movie is really po-faced, but the initiated will realize how funny it is!"

I did realize. It was not funny.

I thought it did a good job of being sympathetic to both characters. The problem isn't that he's insufficiently grateful for having his work interrupted by unwanted tea. (When you are racing to a deadline, interruptions are not helpful.) The problem is that he's ALWAYS WORKING. Eventually you can see that he does try, and it's genuinely very difficult for him.

Also... using mushrooms to build connection and create intimacy? I'm calling it, this guy is a Fannibal. He did everything but play the Goldberg Variations in slow motion during the omelet scene.

Also a big clue: movie is dedicated to Jonathan Demme.
posted by tel3path at 1:06 PM on February 4, 2018

There was quite a bit of laughter from the audience I saw it with. It really is a comedy.
posted by octothorpe at 1:20 PM on February 4, 2018

I know it's a comedy. I did not find it funny.
posted by tel3path at 3:02 PM on February 4, 2018

I can see that Daniel Day Lewis is talented and skilled. But this movie made me realize that the people he was playing in the movies I've seen with him recently are people I just find unlikeable.

I would not like Reynolds Woodcock if I met him in real life. I also wouldn't have liked Daniel Plainview (from There Will Be Blood), or Bill the Butcher (although I wasn't supposed to like him anyway), and I even found his embodiment of Lincoln to be annoying; there's a moment in Lincoln where he starts telling a story to a bunch of congressmen, and one actually flees the room when he starts, hollering "he's telling another story, I can't take it!" I laughed out loud when I saw that, because I had been thinking exactly the same thing.

DDL is excellent at embodying the characters. I just don't like the characters themselves, so the better he is at being them, the more I dislike him while I'm watching the films.

And that twist that Alma comes up with to make the relationship work is twisted.

....I watched this as part of my annual make-sure-I've-seen-every-Best-Picture-Nominee ritual. One of my least favorites so far.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:37 AM on February 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Beautiful floral arrangements, but none of them particularly fresh -- all with some signs of decay.

Good catch. I went into this movie expecting to see a lot of gorgeous New Look fashion and was surprised how dowdy his designs were. That scene at the beginning when he unveils the gown for Gina McKee and it's laughably awful. Later, he's chastising Alma about his relationship with the princess, "I designed her christening gown", so he's been at it for decades. Then there's the actual wedding gown, meticulously sewn but with the unflattering tit-shelf and he realised it in his delirium when he knocks it over. None of the dresses he designs for Alma were especially au courant for the time period and whoops, guess what's around the corner, the Swinging 60s. So the decaying flowers signaled that.

My biggest issue is I didn't find their initial meeting credible. He was such a prickly SOB that I can't imagine he'd find a clumsy waitress amusing. And while Krieps did a great job with the psychological drama later on, she's not exactly muse material. She's certainly no Betty Catroux or Loulou de la Falaise, I guess she's more like a life ring he's grabbing on to keep from sinking?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:52 PM on March 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

Au contraire, the English fashions of the time were really dowdy. England stood out from the New Look in that way. They would go right up to the edge of glamour and then swerve away from it.
posted by tel3path at 2:25 AM on March 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Note how Renyolds is the 1st to drop his eyes when Alma tells him she will win the staring contest.
posted by brujita at 12:31 PM on March 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

Yeah, she was his model (his *chief* model, but his model) and he recruited her as such - she fit his measurements. And she was in a position to see the working conditions as a trade up - would you like to move to Mayfair and live and breathe high fashion night and day? duh, obviously.

She does have a pre-Raphaelite/Botticelli look about her, too.

Only when he got tired of you would you realize how not-special a position being his "muse" really was. I'm not saying he didn't romanticize the situation, but it was always more romantic for the "muse" than it was for him. Until it wasn't.

Say it with mushrooms.
posted by tel3path at 3:42 PM on March 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Note also that she chooses to tell him her name and calls him a boy when they meet.
And he isn't upset when she goes off hiking/skiing without him on her honeymoon.
posted by brujita at 7:07 PM on March 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

I didn't care for this movie because I hated the premise. Given current events, given my own past, I don't have much interest in movies in which a woman turns herself inside out to be with and cater to a dysfunctional, abusive man who really isn't worth caring for. Sure he could dress her up in custom made clothes. But guess what, honey, you can hire that done and then go be with a man your own age who won't scream at you because you buttered your toast and whom you won't need to poison to keep in line.

Reynolds really isn't a great designer. His designs aren't at all original and some of them are actually quite bad, such as the wedding dress. See The Collection, which features a designer who has a true flair for innovative and stylish design, and you'll understand the difference. I was glad that the movie acknowledged it when his sister told him their former clients were going elsewhere to get more stylish clothes. Perhaps he used to be more original and has lost his edge or fallen into a rut and now he's riding on his past successes/reputation.

And it would not have taken that team of seamstresses more than an hour or two to fix the damage to that one wedding dress.
posted by orange swan at 4:46 PM on March 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

I wonder what you native speakers thought of his english accent. Sounds very peculiar, unlikely to me. But for me English is a 2nd language. So what do I know.
posted by jouke at 12:42 PM on March 13, 2018

I wonder what you native speakers thought of his english accent.

His diction reminded me a bit of James Mason, who was born in Yorkshire but developed an extremely Received Pronunciation accent during his public school days.
posted by Iridic at 2:34 PM on March 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Pretty much what I’d expect from a character of that age, class and time period.
posted by tel3path at 3:18 PM on March 13, 2018

"he has more than a touch of the vampire about him, a quality enhanced by a trembling vocal inflection that is part cloistered-Brit, part timeless-Transylvanian."
guardian I guess I wasn't the only one who heard a touch of the non-native speaker in his accent.
posted by jouke at 8:21 PM on March 14, 2018

It felt strangely light and insubstantial given the story. It's like an ugliness laid out very prettily.

I guess I missed the laugh lines. Though in the surprise dinner conversation, the back and forth felt kind of badly ad-libbed and I think I laughed at the movie more than with it right then.

Okay, I laughed at the extra dollop of spite butter in the poisoned Almalette. Woodcock's fussiness about being interrupted reminded my SO and I of The Shining. Maybe Wendy should have tried some poison on Jack.

It seems like every woman becomes Woodcock's mother. Just thinking about that makes me sigh though. I don't want to think about these characters, tbh.
posted by fleacircus at 11:36 PM on April 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

I also spent a good chunk of the movie being turned off by the seeming fetishization of a man-child who's genius allows him to get away with treating women like shit.

But on the flip side, what saved it for me was that Alma was always game. She had her eyes wide open. She had a strong will and could deal with his bullshit. When she says to Cyril, "I have to know him in my own way" about her birthday plan, she knows it's probably going to go badly, but to abandon her plan would be to surrender her identity.

Unlike other films that portray really unhealthy relationships uncritically, this stares it in the face.
posted by dry white toast at 8:56 PM on May 10, 2018 [4 favorites]

Watched it on Sunday in an impromptu double bill at the Prince Charles, following Isle of Dogs. Anderson day. Next time, perhaps we can schedule O Lucky Man and Thunderbirds Are Go.

It was only a thought that struck me after seeing the film, so I've not had a chance to verify it, but am I right in thinking that the music represents Reynolds' state of mind? So when he's in a good mood, there's this swirling romantic music, and when he's depressed the music goes away to a great extent? I was very aware of the deliberate clash between the music and the accentuated ambient sound (the incessant footsteps in chilly, echoing rooms) at the beginning. And the decay everywhere in the back rooms. In the same way, we can see him for what he is through the elegant presentation.

I genuinely don't know what to think - which to me is a good thing, and makes me enjoy the film more. It's a puzzle. Just when I think I've worked it out, something moves and it doesn't make sense any more. But I enjoy rearranging the pieces to try to make them make sense - I have faith that they do make sense.

I suppose I've known enough people enough like Reynolds Woodcock that I can accept him for what he is. I don't find him very likeable, but I don't think he's a monster, just someone who's trapped in a web of pandering. It's not a romantic film at all, of course, it's about power. When I left the cinema I felt like I'd just watched a Michael Powell remake of Secretary, with a bunch of Dallas thrown in.

I would need to think about it some more. Reynolds is superb at his job, it's just that his job is not the dress design (it's significant that he says "it's not very good, is it?"), it's the performing the character of Reynolds Woodcock. Just as Cyril is superb at her job (managing the business), the ladies are at their jobs (the creation of the dresses). I take the implication from the last scenes that Alma's job is to design the dresses (the shot of her with a mouthful of pins, significantly not wearing the white coat of the seamstresses), and the nature of the happy ending is that she assumes that role. But I don't know what to make of that. Nor, indeed, how it fits in with serial poisoning.

She needs to tell the doctor about it in case something goes wrong, surely.
posted by Grangousier at 3:52 AM on June 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh, and is he supposed to be bulimic as well as autistic?
posted by Grangousier at 5:37 AM on June 5, 2018

(Sorry - that's a bit crude, and apologies for any offence caused. What I meant was that there are several clues that Reynolds is what we would now consider to be "on the spectrum", as it were. At the time I wondered "how does he eat so much and stay so thin?" and then, on reflection, began to suspect he had a secret emetic life. The thing is that so much needs to be inferred - the most significant interactions are stare-outs, after all.)
posted by Grangousier at 10:02 AM on June 5, 2018

I wonder what you native speakers thought of his english accent. Sounds very peculiar, unlikely to me. But for me English is a 2nd language. So what do I know.

I know an English male in his 60s who sounds exactly like that.

As in, he could have been Day-Lewis’s voice coach.

As in, I closed my eyes and heard Adrian speaking about the importance of having a quiet breakfast.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 7:51 PM on January 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

The first scene hooked me and I stayed breathlessly to the end
posted by growabrain at 9:36 AM on October 18, 2019

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