Gorgeous, but my least favorite PTA since HARD EIGHT. I like ambitious (THERE WILL BE BLOOD, THE MASTER) or wild (INHERENT VICE, PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE) PTA, not intimate character study PTA (HARD EIGHT, MAGNOLIA, and now, PHANTOM THREAD). I don't think he's particularly good at it. The dinner scene is just so bad, yet it's the crux of the film. Over-the-top improv that just stews in an awkward middle ground between is this funny
or is this serious?
But the whole movie is like that. I wish the ending was the midpoint instead of just a morbid twist.
That said, as opposed to both HARD EIGHT and MAGNOLIA, there's just so little characterization to Alma outside of her relationship with Reynolds which is so unfortunate because she's the main character. Her life seems to be completely centered around whether or not he loves her. (I won't lie - a little uncomfortable to be even vaguely gender critical on this forum anymore). I wish we knew more of who Alma is as a character. I didn't care that much about Reynolds. We got it, he's a beloved, overly serious genius who everyone loves plus he has serious mommy issues which affects his relationships with women.
These two reviews from letterboxd hit home:
Impeccably crafted, but I'm just tired of a lot of what this movie covers. I'm tired of a lead character who's just an inherent artistic genius. I'm tired of the assumption that I have to also believe this character is some artistic genius, and that I have to give a shit about them because of their genius. I'm tired of Freud, really. And mommy issues. And character psychology. And you're really gonna hinge this thing on a "har har" twist involving Munchausen by proxy? I didn't like the ending. It just reminded me of Eminem's music video for Cleanin' Out My Closet.
It's a fine movie. PTA and everyone give it their all, and I was really enjoying it up until the surprise dinner. The shot of DDL and Vicky Krieps driving around at night with the headlights illuminating their surroundings is such a great shot that reflects the surreal, fantasy bubble that Woodcock lives in, along with the thrill of it that Alma feels getting introduced to it. I wanted more of that. Maybe I'll grow to like it more seeing it again if I can bypass the story and take in everything else. Who knows.
Ben RadetskiEdited - expanded thoughts.
This doesn't get good for quite awhile, and even when it does it's terribly unfocused, but I for the most part found myself intrigued. The first half is structured like an extended montage, it's meandering -- here I thought Anderson had matured since his pre-Master phase, but for much of the film he appears to revert to loudness rather than quietness. Greenwood's score is far better than say Brion's in Punch-Drunk Love, but it still drowns out much of the film -- I wish Anderson would let the toast-crunching and butter-sizzling carry the film's beauty, even pure silence would be welcome, but alas this is not the case. There's one good music cue in the whole film (after Woodcock's line about the air of quite death), it's a powerful piece by Greenwood, but by this point in the film his score had become numbing. Even without the music, Anderson cuts far too often, the film for the most part never gets a chance to properly breath.
The whole film feels like a lot of set up without much pay off, but after the asparagus scene it really starts to pick up. Vicky Krieps gives an incredible performance, perhaps even better than Day-Lewis -- Anderson directs her quite beautifully, he gets the most out of every gesture, every glance. There's a number of interesting pieces in the film's second half: the shot inside the teapot as Alma sprinkles the mushroom, the beautiful compositions in Woodcock's room as Alma cares for him, Woodcock hallucinating about his mother, the lengthy take of the marriage proposal, breakfast on their honeymoon, the New Year's Eve party, the music cue I mentioned in the previous paragraph etc. -- but it never really feels like a complete film: these elements are scattered and too much space remains in between.
I think what really pushes me into liking the film overall is the omelet scene, which I found very moving. The scene, and everything that follows, seems to imply that what is occurring between Reynolds and Alma is completely acceptable and a natural product of love. Although morbid, Woodcock is making a sacrifice for his partner, for the better of the relationship. But still, Anderson spends far too long getting to this conclusion, I guess I'm just forgiving because I was moved, for whatever reason. Patrick Devitt says the film is a study of autism, which is probably the most interesting reading of the film I've heard so far.