Phantom Thread

Far from seamless

O pen letter to Academy voters, film critics and movie “fans” who have succumbed to some bizarre form of hive mentality: a noted actor announcing, “this is my last film” is not reason enough to justify acclaim and awards. Imagine what a terrible precedent this sets –first off, think of the ridiculous films that could have garnered the sympathy nom. What if Paul Walker had inferred that Furious 7 was to be his final film or Robin Williams forewarned that Night at the Museum III would be his swan song or Raul Julia had told us Street Fighter was going to be his last rodeo?  Do you want a world in which Street Fighter is a Best Picture nomination? Secondly, as this has become quite a coup, what’s to stop any notable actor from Jim Carrey to Meg Ryan from declaring, “this will be my final film,” watching the accolades roll, and then simply making another film afterwards?

Daniel Day-Lewis announced prior to release that Phantom Thread would be his final film and after seeing it, I’m just as happy not to have another opportunity to see DDay again. There’s almost nothing redeeming in this tedious exploration of bad romance.  Playing an abusive, type-A primadonna, Lewis himself gives us the worst romantic lead since Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets. In fact, the Nicholson film is apt here. Imagine taking As Good As It Gets, removing all the comedy, the fairy tale nature, and any likeable secondary character and that’s what you get in this Phantom Menace.

Dress designer extraordinaire Reynolds Woodcock (Lewis) is about as fun as the plague. He sneers at his customers. He’ll happily tell any random stranger in his presence to “fuck off.” And “anal retentive” doesn’t begin to describe the guy whose day is ruined because somebody ate breakfast. He lives an upscale duplex/art studio where the mechanical daily routine is set by his old maid of a sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville). We don’t yet discover how closed Reynolds’ world is even after Cyril fires the current live-in model for being clingy.

Suddenly without a muse, Reynolds turns on the “charm,” when he spies diner waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps). I know this is U.K. of the 1950s, but I’m pretty sure hitting on waitresses was still a dick move at this moment in time and place. The best of Reynolds rap is telling Alma what a mamma’s boy he is and confessing that he loves to play hide-and-seek with bustles. Credit where credit is due, the shtick works likes a charm.  In very the next scene, Alma is at his place and down to her underwear … so that Reynolds can put her in another dress?!  About this time, sis comes home to join in the kinky fun, taking down Alma’s measurements. Before you say, “Wow. This has become the most awkward first date of all time,” try to remember, this is the good part of Phantom Thread.

For all you burgeoning roués out there, remember that the tailor gambit is problematic.  The last guy that anxious to get a first date out of her clothes to make a dress was Jame Gumb from The Silence of the Lambs.

As the film progresses, it becomes clear that Reynolds only cares about the woman’s figure, which is the basis for every quality relationship. Along those lines, both Reynolds and Cyril critique Alma’s bod as a manner of business. It takes Reynolds exactly one off-screen encounter to grow tired of Alma, but she doesn’t wanna go so easy and earns his approval shortly after by becoming his submissive toady, which is the second-best basis for every quality relationship.

Daniel Day-Lewis is no stranger to ridiculously overrated material. Ever since we gave My Left Crap about My Left Foot, awards shows have been subjected to the pretense that DDL has once-again steered a masterpiece. With There Will Be Blood, Gangs of New York, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being, DDL has become my first ballot pick for the overrated Hall of Fame. And now I’m currently stuck with the thought that I’ve seen all the Daniel Day-Lewis I will ever see. Oh no! Now who’s gonna play stuffy, overwritten, generic, aristocratic Europeans? Nature hates a vacuum. We’re gonna need one of you Caucasian morphs to step to the plate. Who will it be? Oscar Isaac? Christoph Waltz? All you gotta do is cram a yardstick up your ass for the next decade or two.

Phantom Thread is easily the worst Best Picture nomination since The Tree of Life. It not just that this film has taken valuable Oscar real estate ahead of more deserving snubs like Wonder Woman, Molly’s Game, The Big Sick, and Baby Driver, Phantom Thread isn’t even as good as several films who remain blissfully unaware that the best of their kind get awards. For the latter, I’m thinking of films like Daddy’s Home 2, Monster Trucks, and My Little Pony: The Movie. All of these I would gladly stomach anew thrice-over before attempting another run at Phantom Thread.

There’s a reason why Phantom Thread wasn’t released until after award shows already had their say – because audiences might see it. Aside from the final ten minutes, this film is close to unwatchable. About an hour into this black hole of entertainment, Phantom Thread reaches that rare level where you start laughing at the film rather than cheering with it.

And if I’m being 100% honest, I think most of the dresses in this film suck, too.



♪I was reeling in my seat
This film hardly a treat
Wondering how all my peers could be so wrong
A Best Pic nod got me there
Thinkin’ this is hardly fair
This sucks as much as the Daniel Day is long

No idea if there’s a solution
I’ll demand my own restitution
Grin and bear at frowns of the crowd
“This is even worse,” I say,
“Than Fifty Shades of Grey
To ev’ry critic out there, I pray
You don’t get fooled again♫

Rated R, 130 Minutes
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson
Genre: In love with a jerk
Type of being most likely to enjoy this film: Those who live down this D-Day
Type of being least likely to enjoy this film: People who have not lost their freaking minds

♪ Parody Inspired by “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

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