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Friday, January 26, 2018

"Phantom Thread" Hollow, Pretentious, Desperate

"Phantom Thread" is a pretentious, cynical, empty exercise in design and absurd plot detail. Paul Thomas Anderson is trying to say something profound about difficult people in relationships, but his film is one of the most hollow I have ever seen. I witnessed very little truth onscreen. All I saw was Paul Thomas Anderson laboring over his script, struggling so very, very hard, and ending by saying nothing at all.

Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day Lewis) is a very successful fashion designer. He picks up Alma (Vicki Krieps), a much younger waitress. He brings her home to live with him and his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville). When Alma butters her toast, the noise, Woodcock says, is like a horse galloping through the room. Woodcock is very sensitive and he insults and bullies those around him so that he can live an untouched life, devoted only to designing dresses.

There are many long scenes of poor women sewing dresses with the utmost care, and rich women wearing the dresses, sometimes getting drunk while wearing them.

Read no further if you don't want to know the absurd and desperate lengths this movie goes to before it ends.

Alma senses that Woodcock is losing interest in her, so she poisons him with mushrooms. The first time she poisons him, he does not realize what's going on, but the second time he sees Alma, in plain sight, consult a mushroom guide and put poison mushrooms into his omelet. Alma places the omelet before Woodcock and the two of them stare at each other for a long time, perhaps waiting for Paul Thomas Anderson to write a better, or at least more plausible, script. I suspect that Anderson had taken a break to consult a copy of "Masterplots."

Alma, in her vague German accent (such a cliché) finally says, "These mushrooms will make you sick, but they won't kill you. You may wish you would die, but you won't. And I'll take care of you." And Woodcock swallows down the poison mushrooms.

We later see a tender, erotic scene in a toilet where Woodcock is throwing up, and Alma is ministering to him. And that's the end of the movie.

This movie is criminal crap with a capital K. Daniel Day Lewis says it will be his last film. I understand. He should have gone out on "Lincoln."


  1. I saw the trailer, googled "Is this film pretentious crap?" and came across your post,which answered my question perfectly. Thank you for every word of your post. Telling me the mushroom story line was enough to turn my stomach and confirm my worst fears. I had also seen a Mark Kermode appraisal of it, where he praised it and I usually trust him,but my pseudo detectors were telling me not to trust him on this one. Thank you,thank you,thank you.

    1. Now there's someone who knows how to use Google! :-)