Paul Thomas Anderson is no stranger to the Academy Awards. His writer/director resume, which includes Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, and Inherent Vice, is filled with Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning work. However, he has yet to capture a gold statue for his work. Once again paired up with actor Daniel Day-Lewis, who won his second of three Best Actor Oscars for his performance in Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. Now, Lewis’ acting and Anderson’s directing and film are nominated at this year’s event as Phantom Thread is one of the nine films nominated for Best Picture.
Phantom Thread tells the story of Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), a renowned fashion designer in 1950s England, and his love affair with his newest muse/assistant Alma (Vicky Krieps). Woodcock’s love for Alma battles his obsessive, controlling personality and his devotion to his craft. Often referring to his sister and head of operations Cyril (Lesley Manville), he and Alma’s relationship bounces back and forth from affection to disdain while they deal with the differences that keep them apart.
As usual, Paul Thomas Anderson makes you work for his films. Like many of his others, this film takes a slow-paced build with long takes and moments of little to no dialogue while Jonny Greenwood’s score takes us through the setting and scenery, playing off the non-verbal emotion displayed by our characters. Typical to his past, Daniel Day-Lewis becomes his character, playing Woodcock as if he were a ’50s version of Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada (only less sarcastic, more bluntly obsessive). Vicky Krieps is an excellent acting partner to Lewis’ portrayal. She makes the turn from eager young student, blinded by love and unprepared for Woodcock’s rudeness, to a wife who knows his exact ticks, able to weave around his attacks and love the man when he chooses to let her in.
Definitely worthy of notice in this film is the set design and costume design throughout it. From the wardrobes to the indoor settings, the production put forth the detail to represent the world that Reynolds Woodcock works in. As a fashion designer for the elite, the film is filled with only the most elegant wardrobes for its characters and beautifully decorated galas and events that place us in the world of the richest of the richest.
Scoring nominations for Costume Design, Original Score and a Best Supporting Actress nod for Lesley Manville on top of the already mentioned awards for Anderson and Lewis, Phantom Thread proves itself a worthy combatant in the battle for Best Picture. With a writer/director who’s been nominated multiple times and an actor who’s won three of those gold statues, we’ll have to wait and see what it can take home Sunday, March 4th at the 90th Annual Academy Awards.