Phantom Thread is notable film for a number of reasons: It was directed by six-time Oscar nominee Paul Thomas Anderson, whose achievements include Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, The Master and Inherent Vice. It is also rumored to feature the final big-screen performance of actor Daniel Day-Lewis, who told W magazine he was "overwhelmed" with sadness while filming and desperate to "draw a line" and avoid being "sucked back into another project."
Given its lush production and tightly wound psychological drama, Phantom Thread may also become one of the most argued about films of the season, which is why Boise Weekly News Editor and resident movie reviewer George Prentice invited colleague Harrison Berry to an advanced screening of Phantom Thread, followed by a discussion about the merits and flaws of the film.
George Prentice: I'm not sure where we'll agree or disagree on this movie, but can we agree that Daniel Day-Lewis is the finest actor of his generation?
Harrison Berry: He's playing 3-D chess with everyone else on-screen. He's able to capture, up close or at a distance, the feel of a role that I don't see other actors doing.
GP: Day-Lewis plays the fictional character of renowned dressmaker Reynold Woodcock in the London couture world of the 1950s. My initial reaction was to how beautiful and lush this film was, but then I just couldn't shake how cruel this story was, particularly the cruelty of how this man creates beauty.
HB: It's extremely harsh, but I don't think his cruelty is intentional. His character's aversion to any kind of strife or discord just made him impossible to deal with.
GP: The story builds around Woodcock's seduction of a working class waitress from the hinterlands, played marvelously by Vicky Krieps. He finds her, her envelops her, seduces her, takes her to his London home and, at least the way I see it, corrupts her purity.
HB: But she's much more than a damsel. Has her own needs and objectives. I think she becomes an integral part of his life for better and, sometimes, for worse.
GP: I would give this film, probably an eight out ten stars and I think that's pretty generous.
HB: I would give it nine.
GP: Really? You really did like this more than I did.
HB: I love this movie. Yes, this is a period drama in a country where people's tastes and levels of education are so different from my own. But, at the same time, I see so much of myself in these people and I know these characters. They're haunting.
GP: This is the second pairing of Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Thomas Anderson since There Will Be Blood in 2007. And for me, the films are similar in that Phantom Thread is 130 minutes long and feels even longer.
HB: For me, the similarity is that both films pursue some imaginary version of masculinity.
GP: From a consumer's perspective, like I said this is a pretty tough slog at more than two hours in length, and this wouldn't be my first recommendation for a date night. Plus there are at least a half dozen films out there—Lady Bird; The Florida Project; I, Tonya; Three Billboards; Darkest Hour; The Post—that I would have to recommend first, but I think if you're a real cinephile, you should put Phantom Thread on your list.
HB: Yes, a cinephile with an eye for narrative and someone who relishes these really deep performances.
GP: And if you're really into costume dramas or period pieces, this film is for you.
HB: But for those who are really into, say, something like The Crown or Downton Abbey, they might not be as receptive to a movie that's this intense.
GP: I think Downton Abbey fans might gobble this up like crumpets. I would say Phantom Thread might be some kind of distant cousin to Downton Abbey, somewhere down a twisted bloodline.