"Taming of the Shrew, in Reverse"
What You Need To Know:
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.
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.