Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a renowned fashion designer in 1950s London. He, along with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), have created a fashion house so popular that even French royalty turns to him for a gown. However, he’s very obsessed with his work and needs routine, silence, and solitude when he’s deep in his work, something his muses can’t seem to fathom, but his devoted sister, who runs the operations of the House of Woodcock. After another muse is dismissed, Reynolds finds himself dining alone. A waitress, Alma (Vicky Krieps), catches his eye and he promptly asks the nervous girl out to dinner. The dinner goes well, and they return to his house where Alma models a gown for him. At first it seems Alma assimilated into her new role of Reynolds’s muse quite easily, falling in love for him along the way, but she wants more of him to herself. She attempts to surprise him with a dinner — he doesn’t like surprises, Cyril warns — and of course it backfires. Alma then picks mushrooms, finding some poisonous ones, and serves them to Reynolds. He becomes ill, collapsing on the wedding gown he was making for a French princess (Lujza Richter). Alma tends to him and, once recovered, Reynolds seems to have an awakening and asks Alma to marry him. Has Reynolds really changed, or will he revert back to his obsessive nature? Will their marriage last or will Reynolds discover what Alma did?
Phantom Thread as though it were a homework assignment, after all director Paul Thomas Anderson’s last couple of efforts have been duds, but I wound up far more entertained than I thought I would be. Now is it entertaining for two whole hours? Not entirely. The plot is as thin as a thread, but rather than focus on plot mechanics, the movie is more about viewing the struggles of being in a relationship with an artist or creative type (as well as the power dynamics between the established designer and his lower class muse), although, with Reynolds Woodcock it’s taken to the extreme. He’s essentially a man-baby, which gets frustratingly annoying, but thankfully with Daniel Day-Lewis in the role, you’re still engaged and curious to see where things end up despite this. Vicky Krieps does her best to stand toe-to-toe with Day-Lewis, but Lesley Manville steals it with a very brief monologue that shows why she’s so great. The music, costumes, and production design are all astutely detailed, which just shows you how little story there is that you can focus and appreciate those aspects of the film. Overall, Phantom Thread is a good, original dramatic piece, but like every other movie released in 2017 that’s two hours or more, it could have been better a little bit shorter.