PHANTOM THREAD

"Taming of the Shrew, in Reverse"

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Language
Violence
Sex
Nudity

Summary:

Set in postwar 1950s Britain, PHANTOM THREAD is a period drama about a fussy, obsessed tailor of expensive clothes for women and his quirky relationship with a waitress, who works with him and his beloved sister. PHANTOM THREAD is very well acted, directed and scored, but it tells a quirky, godless tale about a reserved romantic relationship where a woman goes to disturbing lengths to get her lover and husband to take their relationship more seriously.

Review:

Set in postwar 1950s Britain, PHANTOM THREAD is a period drama about a fussy, obsessed tailor of expensive clothes for women and his quirky relationship with a waitress, who comes to live and work with him and his beloved sister. PHANTOM THREAD is very well acted, directed and scored, but it tells a quirky, godless tale about a reserved romantic relationship where the woman and eventually wife of the man goes to absurd and even disturbing lengths to get him to notice her and take their relationship more seriously.

Daniel Day-Lewis plays renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock. He and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are at the center of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutants, and ladies with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Women come and go through Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman named Alma.

He first meets Alma at a hotel restaurant near his country house, where she works as a waitress. They start to stare at one another, then Alma starts to trip, and they both laugh. That very moment, he asks her out to dinner that night.

After their meal, he takes her to his country house, where he asks her if he can take her measurements. His sister soon arrives and helps Reynolds methodically take Alma’s measurements. Soon, Alma is living with Reynolds and Cyril at their huge house in London, which also serves as their dressmaking facilities. Alma starts helping them out with the other seamstresses working there, but she becomes annoyed at all the rules and demands Reynolds makes on her. He demands absolute silence at the breakfast table while he concentrates on the day’s work or designs another dress at breakfast. They clearly have a loveless relationship. Reynolds only appreciates her for her modeling abilities. As he tells her when he meets her, there are things he can design with her that he can’t do otherwise.

Alma hits upon a drastic, dangerous idea to get closer to Reynolds. Surprisingly, the idea seems to work, and Reynolds finally asks her to marry him.

However, the marriage hits a snag when Reynolds returns to his fussy, demanding ways. What will Alma do to save their marriage?

PHANTOM THREAD almost plays like a reserved TAMING OF THE SHREW, Shakespeare’s famous comedy about a man who tries to woo a fiery maiden who no one wants to marry, but in reverse. Writer/Director Paul Thomas Anderson (MAGNOLIA and THERE WILL BE BLOOD) presents a tightly wound cinematic experience filled with magnificent color and beautiful classical music. One of the songs, however, is a lovely instrumental version of the standard pop tune “My Foolish Heart.” The music envelops the movie as the soundtrack plays each tune fully from scene to scene. The methodical pace of the music and the movie’s mise en scene matches the methodical way in which the dress designer, Reynolds, works in the movie’s story.

That said, PHANTOM THREAD reflects a strong humanist worldview with relatively godless characters who aren’t always likeable. The solution Anna uses to get Reynolds to love her and personally depend on her is immoral and bizarre, however strong the viewer might sympathize with her predicament. Furthermore, in one scene, a delirious Reynolds sees a vision of his dead beloved mother in her wedding dress. Finally, PHANTOM THREAD contains brief nudity in one scene and some foul language, including several “f” words. Extreme caution is advised.

Content:

Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
Strong humanist worldview set in 1950s Britain about relatively godless characters who aren’t always likeable or moral, plus one scene shows the lead male character sick and delirious and having a vision of his dead beloved mother in her wedding gown, with some moral elements and strong pro-capitalist elements, though male lead is portrayed as too obsessive and autocratic about his work at the dress-making company he owns with his sister.

Foul Language:
 16 obscenities (10 “f” words, five “h” words and one “d” word) and at least one strong profanity misusing Christ’s name. 

Violence:
Woman poisons man’s food to get his attention, and so that he becomes sick and has to stop working and depend on her for a few days. 

Sex:
Very light sexual content includes a passionate kiss, an unmarried couple enter man’s room after a night out but nothing shown, unmarried tailor invites a woman he wants to be a model to live with him and his sister, and married couple share a bed together. 

Nudity:
Upper female nudity as tailor measures a young woman for a dress, and she’s wearing a white see-through undergarment. 

Alcohol Use:
Brief alcohol use, a rich middle-aged woman becomes stinking drunk and has to be put into bed where she passes out, and the tailor/protagonist orders his assistant to take back the dress he let the woman wear, and one scene is set at a raucous New Year’s Party. 

Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
Brief smoking. 

Miscellaneous Immorality:
Male lead is rude and obsessive and sometimes mean (especially about his work and his creative process), male lead believes he’s cursed, and any serious affair or marriage he has will be doomed to failure, male lead gets jealous.

In Brief:

PHANTOM THREAD is a period drama set in postwar 1950s Britain. Daniel Day-Lewis plays renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock. He and his sister are at the center of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutants, and ladies with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Reynolds meets an intriguing waitress named Alma, whom he takes into his home and business as a model and companion. However, he’s obsessed with his work; so, Alma hits upon a drastic, dangerous idea to force Reynolds to take their relationship to the next level.

PHANTOM THREAD almost plays like a reserved TAMING OF THE SHREW, Shakespeare’s famous comedy, but in reverse. Writer/Director Paul Thomas Anderson presents a tightly wound cinematic experience filled with great acting, magnificent color and beautiful classical music. However, PHANTOM THREAD reflects a strong humanist worldview with relatively godless characters who aren’t always likeable. Also, the solution Anna uses to get Reynolds to love her more is immoral and bizarre. Finally, PHANTOM THREAD contains brief nudity in one scene and some foul language, including several “f” words. Extreme caution is advised.