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'Phantom Thread' follows the tumultuous love story of a 20th-century dressmaker. USA TODAY

Daniel Day-Lewis stars as a persnickety dressmaker with commitment issues in Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Phantom Thread.'(Photo: Laurie Sparham/Focus Features)

In the grand tapestry of Daniel Day-Lewis’ acting career, Phantom Thread will be sewn in as a colorful swatch, though for a retirement role, he leaves us wanting a little more. 

The fashion-centric period drama (*** out of four; rated R; in New York and L.A. theaters Dec. 25, expanding in January) is the Oscar-winning thespian’s second collaboration — following the exquisite showcase of 2007's There Will Be Blood — with writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson. It's also apparently Day-Lewis' swan song, much to his fans' dismay. While the film is a solid outing, for sure — Day-Lewis never gives even a mediocre performance — in many ways, Phantom Thread has him sharing the spotlight more than not a well-tailored, oddly humorous affair.

Day-Lewis stars as Reynolds Woodcock, a persnickety A-list dressmaker in 1950s London who wears his public face well outfitting princesses and debutantes but is kind of a disaster with his personal life. He has a string of girlfriends but none seem to take, as he keeps them at arm’s length in terms of actual commitment. “I don’t have the time for confrontations,” says the lifelong bachelor, who lets his stoic sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) manage his business as well as his relationships.

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On a jaunt to the country, Woodcock locks eyes with a clumsy young waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps). He's smitten by the time he’s finished ordering breakfast and they began a tryst that’s at first affectionate but turns toward the tumultuous once his newest muse moves into his townhouse and he uses her as a model.

Woodcock begins to be annoyed by her presence — and especially the way she butters her bread. It’s those little things that bother him most: Alma sends Cyril home and makes plans to have him all to herself on his birthday, which results in his nearly crippling disbelief that she’d alter his daily routine in such a way.

Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) becomes enamored with Alma (Vicky Krieps) in 'Phantom Thread.' (Photo: Laurie Sparham/Focus Features)

Most women who've had their guys turn out to be this much of a horror show would head back to the hills. After a sedate slow burn of relationship strife and monstrous manners, though, Alma reclaims power in her own way, leading to a twisty (and at times twisted) third act that’s interestingly satisfying.

With Phantom Thread, Anderson has crafted one of his best-looking works to date. Even for non-fashion mavens, the costumes and wardrobes are stellar, it’s sumptuously shot from the rooms in Woodcock manor to a New Year’s party downtown, and the film gets a nice mood boost courtesy of a baroque-tinged score from Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood.

While not as immersive or iconic a role as the president of Lincoln or Blood’s signature oil man, Day-Lewis does put together a fabulous fussbudget. Unpredictably fiery, the actor gives him a nice character arc that allows a vulnerable side to balance his more self-destructive traits.

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As Phantom Thread flits between complicated character piece and unusually funny romantic comedy, the movie becomes much more about Krieps’ Alma. The Luxembourgian actress holds her own with Day-Lewis and often is the best part of the movie. Just as key is Manville as his stern sibling, who’s nearly impossible to read at first though she begins to take Alma's side on certain matters.

It’s an acceptable though not exceptional goodbye and one hopes, even somewhat selfishly, for Day-Lewis to stitch together a more memorable final bow someday.

 

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Author : USA TODAY
Publish date : 2017-12-07 17:00:51