With the amazing acting credentials that come with the names Daniel Day Lewis & Lesley Manville, this alone was reason enough to put “Phantom Thread” on our must see movie list, but with the setting of this screenplay being primarily in the affluent central London suburb of Fitzrovia along with the premise of this motion picture being fashion designers to high society & more, it had much to promise, but did this motion picture live up to our own expectations or did we find it too heavy going for comfort?
When we consider those prominent players in the acting profession, whether it be on stage or screen, despite the towering talent the other side of the pond, it is Britain that has, for us, produced the cream of the crop, those in this category still actively treading the boards as well as starring in front of the camera extending to the likes of Maggie Smith, Jeremy Irons, Judi Dench & Tom Courtney, to name just a few, while the mere mention of late great such as Laurence Oliver, Peggy Ashcroft, Alec Guinness & Lynn Redgrave, evokes powerhouse thespianism that actors stateside could only dream of. But inclusions on that former list very much extend to the stars of this motion picture under our microscope and, forgive us to getting to the review point this early, but there is much to extol about the performance virtues of leads in “Phantom Thread”, academy award winning Daniel Day Lewis & accomplished actress, Lesley Manville, both who in this seamstress soaked screenplay shone like the true stage trained thoroughbreds they are. And while, until this quintessentially British branded but American made movie, one focussing on the main character, renowned 1950’s fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (prolifically played by Daniel Day Lewis), we had seen little of Manville’s work, either on stage or screen, albeit her role in the recent equally English film “Hampstead”, came back to us while sitting in the cinema. However, that said, in “Phantom Thread”, she well & truly shines, as while we understandably take for granted, Day Lewis’s awesome (and that is no overstatement here) acting abilities, through her character as Woodcock’s strong willed & stoic sibling, Cyril, the only person that is able to put the obsessive & controlling dress designer in his place, or at least quell his domineering demeanour, Manville is magnificent. Moreover, the comparisons between their two characters and the actors in real life is uncanny, as Lewis is known for his precise routines & mannerisms and Manville for her steadying of the ship qualities which, whether by pure chance or otherwise, made for perfect casting of this intense introspective that, at times, was quite tedious, while at others was cinematically compelling, due in no part to Daniel’s & Leslie’s on screen capabilities come qualities.
So, having broadsided our opinion in (an admittedly lengthy) one sentence, lets summarise the plot in a similar length, “Phantom Thread” essentially all about the excessively self-centred & controlling character portrayed by Daniel Day Lewis and, in essence, this film was always going to be about him and the expectation that he might lift a further set of awards following his success for “Lincoln”. However, while we acknowledge that his performance in this picture was powerful, for us, it ultimately paled in comparison to Manville’s who, despite effectively being the sideshow star in this sordid storyline of a man in utter control but thrown into a state one of vulnerability through monstrous manipulation by the two ladies in his life, significantly shined. Indeed, it was her that kept us connected with this lengthy and, at times, heavy going gargantuan that, apart from the breath taking costume design (surely that was a given!), has been totally overlooked by the awards panels, this despite having received numerous nominations across the board. So, where did “Phantom Thread” fail in their estimation & ours? Well, firstly it was perhaps faced with stiff awards ceremony competition which undoubtedly clouded its overall appeal, as while aspects of its cinematography was truly terrific, the car scenes for example eye wateringly excellent, there was a mundane, morose & murky edge to this movie that was clearly overshadowed by the likes of “Three Billboards” (you know the rest), “Lady Bird” and (do we need to say more) “The Shape Of Water”, all of which were going to condemn Daniel’s last (we have it on good authority) silver screen starring. All that said, there was so much to like about this film, the Fitzrovia familiarity, the brilliant Britishness of it all, the delightful eccentricities of Day Lewis’s Reynolds and we haven’t even talked about Vicky Krieps who plays a significant part in this screenplay, although just a mere mention of her speaks volumes of the lack enduring impression she made on us as, sadly, this potentially phenomenal motion picture also lacked. (DISCO MATT)