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Daniel Day-Lewis gives a masterful performance as an obsessed designer in 'Phantom Thread,' a wickedly funny love story

Focus Features‘Phantom Thread.’
  • Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest movie, “Phantom Thread,” is another memorable work from the auteur.
  • Daniel Day-Lewis gives his usual tour-de-force performance, but it’s his costar Vicky Krieps who is the standout.

Paul Thomas Anderson is arguably at his best when he delves into themes of obsession, and “Phantom Thread” (in theatres on Christmas) is full of that.

Movies like “Boogie Nights,” “There Will Be Blood,” and “The Master” examine characters driven by desires that will never be attained. With every achievement reached, another is seen on the horizon. It’s their drug of choice: Never be satisfied.

In “Phantom Thread,” Anderson uses the character of Reynolds Woodcock as his latest example. Woodcock is a dressmaker in 1950s London whose life revolves around his obsession of making the most beautiful dresses he can imagine.

Daniel Day-Lewis plays Woodcock as a soft-spoken man with huge talent but also a huge ego. He has created a world where his every need is taken care of by his sister (played with ice-queen goodness by Lesley Manville) so he can strictly focus on his work, which is sought by the most powerful and famous women in the world. But as with every obsession, there has to be more. And that’s where Alma (Vicky Krieps) comes in.

Phantom thread 3 focus featuresFocus FeaturesVicky Krieps gives a career-defining performance in ‘Phantom Thread.’

Woodcock plucks her from a countryside tavern she’s waitressing at and brings her into his world. But first he has to take her measurements, which he does on their first date. Can she be worthy of his designs? It’s strictly a formality, however. His eye has never failed him. He knows this is his muse.

Thus begins a relationship that despite all of Alma’s efforts is one-sided. The only affection she is given is when Woodcock is exhausted after completing a dress. But it’s those times that keep her going with the relationship. He is obsessed with the work, but she is obsessed with him. And this is where the movie takes an unexpected turn that’s as twisted as it is beautiful.

“Phantom Thread” is as exquisitely crafted as the dresses in the movie. Its costume and set design instantly suck you into the setting. And Anderson (who shot the movie himself) has created a dark love story that is wickedly funny and that offers some of the best performances of the year.

Day-Lewis gives his usual master class in acting. He plays Woodcock as a man as driven as Daniel Plainview in “There Will Be Blood,” but not as psychotic. His bursts of anger are to drive people away so he can dig deeper into his work. But he’s found his match in Alma, and Anderson has found a star in Krieps.

Krieps is the movie’s standout. She is up to the task of acting opposite a legend like Day-Lewis, playing Alma with a feistiness that energizes the scenes when Woodcock and Alma trade jabs at each other. And her dry comic timing is one of the movie’s many highlights. I can’t wait to see more of her work.

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