By Jocelyn Illing, February 13 2018 —
When you come across an actor that’s amazing in every film, it can be easy to get bored of them over time. Unless they take risks in their roles, these actors’ films begin to feel redundant — we want to see them take it to the next level and surprise us with something new. Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread reflects exactly this — and although it’s very polished and convincing, it’s an underwhelming effort.
Day-Lewis stars as Reynolds Woodcock, a renowned dressmaker in 1950s London. While taking a vacation in the country, he meets and becomes enchanted by a young waitress named Alma, played by the impeccable Vicky Krieps. He invites her back to his mansion where she becomes his muse. However, their personalities begin to clash. Alma bends over backwards to tame and please the uptight and demanding Woodcock, only to be met with a general coldness. In order to teach him a lesson, she devises a plan to manipulate him and have him crawl back into her arms.
It’s tough to portray characters that are unlikable in the eyes of the audience but loved by characters within the film. Day-Lewis initially approaches the character of Woodcock with a charming intensity. He’s a well-spoken, well-dressed bachelor who entices women with his beautiful designs. As the action unfolds, we begin to see his almost childlike tendencies. For example, when Woodcock doesn’t get his way or when people don’t meet his demands, he throws a tantrum. Day-Lewis delivers his outbursts with an air of indignation, so Woodcock never comes across as an actual child.
Although the acting was terrific, I found the plot and characters to be substandard and at times confusing. I wasn’t completely sure what Anderson’s intentions were for the film. He often seemed to be creating a fairy-tale love story, only to turn it into a horror show within minutes. When the story comes full circle and it seems that the two leads will have their happy ever after, I couldn’t help but feel betrayed, as the characters were revealed to revel in each other’s dark tendencies. I guess you could say that they deserved each other.
After watching the film, I really hope that the rumours of it being Day-Lewis’ final performance are false. Yes, he did a marvellous job, but it wasn’t anything special. An artist’s final work should be their attempt to leave a mark on history. If this really was his last film, he ended his career with a fizzle, not with a bang.
Phantom Thread is screening at Canyon Meadows Cinemas. Admission is $5 and showtimes are available online.