One of the most prolific actors in today’s film culture, Daniel Day-Lewis, upholds his reputation as one of the greatest actors of all time in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread.” In his final film, he is nothing short of spectacular. Each component of the film was incredible, from the casting to the score, and especially the costume design. Mark Bridges’ work on the dozens of dresses and selection of suits and other menswear never disappoint, and I believe he will win the Oscar for best costume design.
In the film, Day-Lewis portrays a renowned dress and garment maker, Reynolds Woodcock, who creates clothing for the highest of high-class society in 1950s London. In what has been reported by many sources as his last film in his career (which was also said after he portrayed Abraham Lincoln in 2012’s “Lincoln”), he puts forth an incredible effort as an obsessive yet charming tailor. If this truly is his last, Day-Lewis’ meticulous approach in each scene will be missed in future films. He is an artist and has been doing incredible work on-screen since, and even before, his first Oscar for Best Actor in “My Left Foot” in 1990.
The real drama in the film is played out through Day-Lewis’ character. His charisma and genius is matched by his obsessive, controlling personality, which follows through into his relationship with Alma (Vicky Krieps). At first, Alma enjoys being a part of his creativity and seeing him work, but Woodcock proves hard to please. They bicker constantly, and when Alma makes him a romantic dinner, Woodcock lashes out over how the meal is prepared and then repeats to her that he will not tolerate any deviations from the daily routines. His strict routine, which he has worked hard at perfecting, is how he is able to stay together amidst a very busy schedule.
In the film, Woodcock is frequently probed about why he never married despite working with beautiful women and having many of them fall in love with not only his dresses but also him. After becoming interested in Alma, she moves in and becomes his muse, assistant, and love interest, but the power balance is always tilted towards Woodcock. It is almost too much, and in order to gain any power Alma poisons him. Nearing death, Woodcock felt something tell him he finally was ready to marry. Despite having a “happy ending,” the manipulation and pain each character endured to reach marriage was almost uncomfortable at times. Anderson tiptoed across a very fine line between a woman doing all she can to love someone and the relationship becoming toxic.
Part of the reason the on-screen conflict never reached a truly destructive point was due to the careful scoring from Jonny Greenwood. If it was not for Andre Desplat’s work in “The Shape of Water,” Greenwood would certainly earn an Oscar for the incredible scoring in “Phantom Thread.” Including the score, everything that supports the actors on-screen in this film puts it above many other films of the year. Everything related to production, design, scoring, and writing is incredible and works together to create a work of art.
In a year with many incredible films, it is very difficult to award only one film each award. Day-Lewis is deserving of an Oscar for Best Actor, Jonny Greenwood deserves one for Best Original Score, and Mark Bridges deserves one for costume design, but Bridges is the only one who is likely to receive an award on March 4th.
Make sure you pick up the Feb. 22 edition of The Concordian for a full list of my Oscar predictions, as well as contributions from students Will Kuball and Sean Zimny; Dr. Greg Carlson, director of film studies at Concordia; and Matt Olien, television producer at Prairie Public Broadcasting.
Jonathan is a junior double majoring in Economic and Finance and English Writing and minoring in Music. He enjoys music, traveling, hammocking, drinking tea, and listening to records. This is his second semester writing for the Concordian!