[#2018oscardeathrace] Phantom Thread (2017)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps

Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson

130 mins. Rated R for language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Directing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role [Daniel Day-Lewis] [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role [Lesley Manville] [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score) [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Costume Design [Pending]

 

Phantom Thread came highly anticipated. After all, it isn’t terribly often that a performer considered one of the greatest of all time unexpectedly announces his retirement. As it happens, in 2017, Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln, Nine) did just that. It was only expected that Day-Lewis would get an Oscar nomination for his currently final film role, and as usual, he earns it. But what of director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Inherent Vice)? This writer has a love-hate relationship with the director of Phantom Thread. Which way did the finished film sway me?

Phantom Thread is a 1950s-set film about fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) and the strained relationship he has with Alma (Vicky Krieps, Colonia, The Young Karl Marx), a young waitress he meets. After all, he has a very particular way he likes things done. His working relationship with sister Cyril (Lesley Manville, Another Year, Rupture) proves that. Alma doesn’t want to live like that, but she cares for Reynolds very deeply, as he does her. Can they find a way to overcome their differences or are they doomed to drift apart?

Daniel Day-Lewis is incredible in his performance of Reynolds Woodcock, a brilliant but flawed lead. I do not think he will walk away with a statue at the Oscars for Reynolds (that lies with Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour), but he is brilliant nonetheless. He is matched quite capably by Lesley Manville as Cyril.

My issues with the Phantom Thread? I just flat out didn’t care much for the movie. I thought it was overly pretentious, the film was boring and uninteresting for long stretches and no one in the film is all that likable. Day-Lewis and Manville are interesting, yes, and that makes up for some, but I didn’t care for Alma as a character at all. She is the one we are supposed to connect with, to strive for, and I found myself not caring what she did.

That being said, from a technical standpoint, the film succeeds gloriously. The visuals are often stunningly prepared, the lighting is great, and the sound production works well. As problematic as I found the rest of the film, I cannot fight how well-crafted it is.

Phantom Thread is pretentious, at times boring and its characters didn’t work well in bringing me into the film. I found the general plotline to be confusing in its tone and display. I flat-out didn’t enjoy myself in the theater like I have with some of Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous films, and that’s really too bad. One cannot argue about the incredible career of Daniel Day-Lewis, and he certainly goes out on a high note with Reynolds Woodcock.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[#2015oscardeathrace] Maleficent (2014)

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Director: Robert Stromberg

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville

Screenplay: Linda Woolverton

97 mins. Rated PG for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Costume Design

Disney has taken on the recent trend of flipping their fairy tales into live-action extravaganzas. The most recent inclusion here is Maleficent.

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie, Changeling, Kung Fu Panda 2) has only ever been seen as a villain. Now, she is represented as a supernatural being of good who resides in The Moors. She fell for a boy named Stefan (Sharlto Copley, District 9, Oldboy), who ends up betraying her to become king. In retaliation, Maleficent brings forth a curse upon Stefan’s daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Boxtrolls) that she will fall into a deep sleep when she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel, and you know the rest. Or do you?

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My major problem with this film it is supposed to humanize Maleficent, but not only does it get the character wrong, it also makes a villain into a hero by passing the buck and making another character the villain. So in 55 years, they will make a film about that villain being a hero and creating another villain. You see what I’m getting at here?

The actual character herself is very flat. Angelina Jolie plays her like a prankster and very much a non-villain with very little villaining going on. She is a menace in the sense that Dennis was a Menace.

Sharlto Copley is pretty good as Stefan, but his motives are written to fit the script but not to fit the character.

Elle Fanning is given virtually nothing to do.

The screenplay by Linda Woolverton (The Lion King, Alice in Wonderland) is rather bland and presents us with a rudimentary retelling of the story from Maleficent’s point of view that only seeks to demonize the original film. So either the two films exist in separate continuities or they contradict each other. Not sure which theory is worse.

First time director Robert Stromberg gives us a visually stunning vision of Sleeping Beauty’s world, but not much more than that. I like the fact that this is mildly entertaining if completely flawed, and I think parents will find some enjoyment with their kids, more so than most other “family” films. The film just isn’t all that good.

What wins the film has are visual: the costume design and the visual effects. These costumes stand a good chance to take the Oscar this year, and the effects work is rather stunningly beautiful and dark.

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I get the feeling that Maleficent will not be a remembered film, except for all the copies that people nabbed on Black Friday (seriously, it was pretty cheap) collecting dust on movie shelves. I get the feeling.

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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