Out Now On-Demand
Director Paul Thomas Anderson and star Daniel Day-Lewis reteam, after 2007's brilliant There Will Be Blood, for this Best Picture Academy Award nominee set in the fashion world of 1950s post-war London. Once again, Anderson and Day-Lewis are nominated for Oscars as is Lesley Manville for her supporting role.
Renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Manville) are at the centre of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutants and dames with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Women come and go through Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover.
Best Costuming, Academy Awards 2018
Rating: M Offensive language
Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest explores his usual preoccupations - unconventional families, toxic father figures, cloistered creators - and has received the usual nominations for awards it won’t win. But it’s a much chillier proposition than the likes of Boogie Nights, Magnolia or There Will Be Blood.
The story centres on 1950s tailor Reynolds Woodcock (another great PTA name), played by Daniel Day-Lewis. He’s a perfectionist in his work, the toast of London, but in private he’s prissy, petty and cruel. After unceremoniously dumping his previous muse/model, he takes waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps) under his wing, demanding complete surrender in return for proximity to his genius. But Alma is a steelier character than she first appears.
Like There Will Be Blood’s Daniel Plainview, Woodcock is vampiric, feeding off the weak to further his grand plans. Unlike Plainview, Woodcock dips his finger in Alma’s custard instead of drinking her milkshake. But dairy product theft is still a major part of his MO.
Critics have called this wry, wintry drama everything from a horror film to a romantic comedy. Both are misleading. Instead it feels like an adaptation of an austere 1900s book that’s been lost to the ages.
Everything about the production is immaculate: the clothing, the camerawork and Jonny Greenwood’s score, alternatively opulent and haunted. The performances are also excellent, particularly the hard-to-read Krieps and Lesley Manville as Reynolds’ hawk-eyed sister/enabler. As the mincing mansplainer-in-chief, Day-Lewis is predictably committed in his Last Ever Role™, an angry vein in his forehead working overtime.
But you do miss the passion and elegant mess of earlier PTA works - even Inherent Vice had some dizzying moments. The closest we get here are the surging scenes of Woodcock speeding through the countryside in his little car and a few bursts of operatic swearing.
The resulting film has, in Woodcock’s words, an “air of quiet death” about it: like a serene snow globe with nobody to shake it.
The Guardian (UK)
TimeOut (New York)
Sydney Morning Herald
Listener (James Robins)
Absolute snooze fest, only redeeming qualities are its stars, director and craft, the story feels undeniably flat and one note.
A glorious swansong
If this really is Day Lewis' last movie then it's an extraordinary way to go out. Not for everyone but resplendent in it's beauty, this story of a couturier obsessed is one that lingers long after the film has finished. An unusual tale laced with a sort of gothic grimness. Lesley Manville is perfect and Daniel Day Lewis is utterly believable.
I loved this film. It is beautiful and spellbinding with an ending that is surprising and disturbing.
Go see it.