Movie Reviews

“The Phantom Thread” Is the Most Pretentious Film I Have Seen In Years


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“The Phantom Thread” (Focus Features)

With writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson you always get the unexpected. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that I expected “The Phantom Thread” to be an entertaining movie and it isn’t. What I found it to be is a pretentious film about a group of people who are so self-centered that they can not interrelate with anyone else. And when they do stumble into a relationship it turns out to be a grotesque caricature of humanity. You can pin all the plaudits you want on this movie but in the end it is one sick puppy.

The amazingly talented Daniel Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, an extraordinarily successful London fashion designer. He is also a loathsome person. He is strictly concerned with his world and anyone he lets in is only there as long as they can be useful to him in some way. When they have served their purpose they are out. The person usually showing them to the door is his sister Cyril (Leslie Manville). She is the one person Reynolds tolerates.

Enter Alma (Vicky Krieps), a waitress Reynolds meets one day. He is immediately fascinated with her and adopts her as a muse of sorts for his designs. He transforms her life and they enter into a relationship, but what it is isn’t immediately obvious. Still the movie is a love story of sorts.

When the movie ends there are still questions galore to be explained. I have gone over so much in my head and still don’t have answers. Usually that would be a good thing, as I would feel the movie really triggered my curiosity. In the case of “The Phantom Thread” it just makes me recall how bad the script was.

Paul Thomas Anderson has disappointed me in the past “The Master” had Phillip Seymour Hoffman giving a class in dynamic acting, but he was trapped in a mess of a story. On the other hand “Magnolia” went way off the rails with its “raining frogs” but managed to be entertaining at the same time. I went to”The Phantom Thread” with an open mind and good expectations solely because of Daniel Day-Lewis. His talent can usually overcome any obstacles, but sadly that was not the case in this effort.

Maybe if Krieps had been more of a fascinating character the audience could have accepted some of the plot twists. But she comes across as bland personality wise and less than beautiful. Reynolds appears to be a man who looks for and creates beauty so his obsession with Alma is a mystery. Leslie Manville’s portrayal of the enigmatic Cyril is a plus for the movie.

The film is rated R for profanity and adult situations.

“The Phantom Thread” garnered six Academy Award nominations so there are people who saw it with a different appreciation than I did. Some have called it classic; I call it weird.

I scored “The Phantom Thread” an unraveled 4 out of 10.

Jackie K Cooper

Jackie Cooper

The author Jackie Cooper


  1. Well, Jackie. I wanted to see the last (?) Daniel Day Lewis film. I thought it was a love story…love of beauty of fabric…
    Something different. A good drama.
    Sorry you found it sorta “chick” flick. Not your type of love story.
    But I still want to see it.
    You could have said the Day Lewis deserved his Oscar nomination.

    1. Jane, it wasn’t a “chick flick” in any sense. It was dark and disturbing and totally off the wall. DDL was good as was Leslie Manville.

  2. Thank you Jackie, my thoughts exactly. My friend and I laughed throughout most of it and she said “I don’t think this is meant to be a funny movie.” But it was. Poor old Reynolds was just too “extra’ for me.

  3. This review, while somewhat intelligently composed, reminds me of the younger men (18-20) that took my Intro to Film classes with. You’re grammatically okay but you’re writing isn’t very good, and your opinion seems to be based on a similarly immature understanding of the complexities involved with these characters and this type of story. I have a weird feeling you’re wondering why Jennifer Lawrence isn’t playing the female lead. Aren’t you an old man?

    1. I did not think the movie set up the characters in a believable premise. What drew Reynolds to Alma – her looks, her personality, her brain? Ands what drew him out of his ego-centric world into the sick world which was hers?

  4. Had I not been with a friend I would have walked out of this boring and nonsensical film. I wish I had because it would have saved me from seeing that preposterous ending!

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