Review: In What Could Be His Final Film, Daniel Day-Lewis Is Sublime in ‘Phantom Thread’
Movies| | By Robin Milling
Three-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis is meticulously sublime as Reynolds Woodcock in Phantom Thread. A dress designer, he outfits royalty and the elite in 1950s London. Woodcock is an abhorrent character who is verbally abusive to the women who serve and love him, yet Day-Lewis manages to find a small thread of vulnerability in which you can’t help but fall for him.
Therein lies the genius of Day-Lewis as an actor. His attention to detail begins from the inside out. Every move he makes is deliberate, from the way the character holds himself with conscious rigidity to his choice to speak in a breathy, soft English accent. According to costume designer Mark Bridges, Day-Lewis even shopped for his own wardrobe from the Saville Row clothing house to illustrate Woodcock’s fashion sense.
Phantom Thread reunites Day-Lewis with writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, who directed him to a best actor Oscar in 2007’s There Will Be Blood. There is no doubt that, in his final performance, this could be the fourth Academy win for Day-Lewis. The brilliant English actor announced his retirement in June.
He’s already received Golden Globe and London Film Critics’ Circle nods.
As an “incurable confirmed bachelor” who is married to making dresses, the role feels tailor-made for Day-Lewis. He creates the model woman in his clothes, which are designed to perfection. The scenes where Woodcock is fitting his princess and countess clients are rich with detail as he lovingly glides a pin into place and admires his creations. The women are mesmerized by him and his talent.
Lesley Manville is superb as his sister and stalwart assistant, Cyril, who Woodcock refers to as his “old so-and-so.” She runs his business and his personal life with efficiency, ready to fire employees and get rid of the women who challenge his obsessive compulsive routine.
Woodcock is an artiste who is rattled by the slightest disturbance, such as buttering toast at the breakfast table. He is uncomfortable when his routine is shaken. Enter Alma (Vicky Krieps), who becomes his muse and his lover. Here is a woman who may be his unraveling.
The Luxembourg-born Krieps makes an impressive American debut.
Anderson writes their codependent relationship with sadomasochistic undertones, where she does his bidding to earn his love.
Krieps gives a subdued performance that passionately erupts, holding her own with the methodical Day-Lewis.
Beautifully photographed by Anderson — who also triples as cinematographer — Phantom Thread combines his signature quirkiness with a maturity in storytelling, which fans of Boogie Nights will notice
This film undoubtedly belongs to Day-Lewis. He threatened retirement once before, back in 1997, leaving Hollywood for five years to become an Italian cobbler in Florence. If Phantom Thread — which opens December 25 — is truly his last film, it was quite a way to sew up his esteemed career.