Daniel Day-Lewis sews up his bril­liant act­ing ca­reer

Day-Lewis, An­der­son weave story in ‘Phan­tom Thread’ to ex­act­ing stan­dards

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Bill Goodykoontz

“What­ever you do, do it care­fully.” So says a char­ac­ter in “Phan­tom Thread,” Paul Thomas An­der­son’s sneak­ily ter­rific film. But it could just as well be An­der­son talk­ing to him­self, about an ex­pertly made movie in which ev­ery­thing falls per­fectly into place, even when it may seem it won’t.

The film is also no­table for be­ing (sup­pos­edly) Daniel Day-Lewis’ last role, as he has an­nounced his re­tire­ment. Let’s hope that’s not the case be­cause, as per­snick­ety dress­maker Reynolds Wood­cock, he’s as ob­ses­sively bril­liant as ever.

An­der­son — no stranger to ob­ses­sive bril­liance him­self — last worked with Day-Lewis on “There Will Be Blood,” a gen­uine master­piece. At first glance the films seem as if they couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent; “There Will Be Blood” aims to be an epic and suc­ceeds, while “Phan­tom Thread” ex­ists in a smaller, moreper­sonal world.

But there are a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties, the most ob­vi­ous be­ing a fa­nat­i­cal ded­i­ca­tion among the char­ac­ters Day-Lewis por­trays. With Daniel Plain­view, it’s the drive to be rich and pow­er­ful — to be­come an oil man. With Reynolds it’s the need to cre­ate, to his own ex­act­ing stan­dards, beau­ti­ful dresses.

If you’re mak­ing a movie about some­one with ex­act­ing stan­dards, Day-Lewis is your man. Yet what’s so ex­cit­ing about An­der­son and Day-Lewis’ col­lab­o­ra­tions is that while the ac­tor is al­ways su­perb, they’re very much the di­rec­tor’s movies. They feed off of one an­other, cre­at­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive works that show off each other’s strengths.

Mean­while, not to be out­done, Vicky Krieps stands toe-to-toe with Day-Lewis, giv­ing a per­for­mance of quiet (and sneaky) strength; she’s out­stand­ing.

The film be­gins with Reynolds and his sis­ter and busi­ness part­ner, Cyril (Les­ley Manville, also ex­cep­tional), con­spir­ing to rid Reynolds of a woman, ap­par­ently for the sin of of­fer­ing him a pas­try he doesn’t like the looks of. (It looks de­li­cious.)

He heads off to the coun­try and stops at an inn for break­fast. A gi­ant break­fast. Tak­ing his or­der is Alma (Krieps), who mem­o­rizes the or­der, gets it right and im­me­di­ately wins Reynolds over. This re­sults in din­ner and a trip back to his home, where his method of se­duc­tion, such as it is, in­volves tak­ing her mea­sure­ments and re­port­ing them to his sis­ter. Reynolds is clearly smit­ten, which is to say he’s found a new muse. Alma moves in, and nat­u­rally things change.

From there the film threat­ens to be one of those once-he-wins-her-he’sdone-with-her ro­mances, but come on. With this crowd? There’s a lot more to it than that.

Sure, some of the de­tails of their re­la­tion­ship come from that source, but there’s so much more to it than that, a fresh spring of in­spi­ra­tion. There’s a scene in which Alma’s but­ter­ing of toast — the knife scrap­ing across the crispy bread — that plays like tor­ture; Reynolds can barely en­dure it. It’s dis­turb­ing, wor­ri­some — and hi­lar­i­ous.

Reynolds, if it isn’t ob­vi­ous, is ma­ni­a­cal when it comes to de­tail, a con­trol freak of the first or­der. An army of women march in ev­ery morn­ing to cut, sew and give phys­i­cal form to his mus­ings and draw­ings. (Day-Lewis, of course, stud­ied with a de­signer and cre­ated a dress him­self, which his wife, the di­rec­tor Re­becca Miller, has worn. Of course he did.) Alma marches with them, but makes sure clients know she lives in the house. Where does she fit in? She may be Reynolds’ soul mate (or maybe not), but the icy Cyril is ob­vi­ously just as im­por­tant in his life, if not more so.

But Alma is sur­pris­ing. There is a re­solve in her that Reynolds is not used to deal­ing with — nor is Cyril. She is in­deed his muse, and also his mad­ness, and will not be ig­nored nor cast aside. The movie takes a kind of gothic turn by de­grees — it sneaks up on you and be­fore you know it, it’s ar­rived. And it’s im­mensely sat­is­fy­ing.

In other hands, maybe not so much. But An­der­son mod­u­lates the tone and the de­tails with ex­pert care. And, of course, there’s Day-Lewis.

One last time.

Reach Goodykoontz at bill.goody koontz@ari­zonare­pub­lic.com. Face­book: face­book.com/GoodyOnFilm. Twitter: @goodyk.

Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day-Lewis star in “Phan­tom Thread.” LAU­RIE SPARHAM/ FO­CUS FEA­TURES ; IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY AU­DREY TATE/USA TO­DAY NET­WORK; GETTY IMAGES

LAU­RIE SPARHAM/FO­CUS FEA­TURES

Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps star as a dress­maker and his muse in “Phan­tom Thread.”

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