The phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) is for posts on the Internet that you want to know about but can’t be bothered to read. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2018 Oscar-nominated best pictures so that you can be caught up before the big night.
However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.
So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review. 2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.
BONUS: This year, I’ve added bonus content baby! This year I will be reading each review in a podcast format if you don’t even time to READ. There will be a podcast of me reading each review and THEN a bonus podcast where I discuss the film with a fellow film friend.
TLDNW: 1 Word
TLDNW: 20 Words
A movie that creeps into your brain and sits there for longer than you’d like. It grows on you like a fungus.
TLDNW: 500 Words
Three out of Four Stars
When I left the theatre after seeing Phantom Thread I couldn’t quite figure out how I felt. I was struck so strongly by the crushing sense of boredom that had pervaded for the first hour and a half of the film. At the same time, however, I couldn’t shake the last thirty minutes.
I will say right here that this review HAS to be filled with spoilers to make sense so if you haven’t seen Phantom Thread yet- just abandon ship right now. The film offers so many surprises that I don’t want to give anything away. The joy that I found in those last thirty minutes came from knowing nothing ahead of time. I’ll wait- I don’t mind…
Alright – now that we’ve ditched those losers – welcome to the cool crew. Let’s talk about this movie.
In Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film (which has been reported to be Daniel Day Lewis’ last ever) we meet Reynolds Woodcock. Woodcock is a fashion designer who is meant, I’ve read, to represent all of the very specific and particular fashion designers who made their fame in post war Europe. He meets a young woman, Alma, while on vacation in the countryside and they fall in love. Woodcock spends most of the rest of the movie being either wildly in love with this new woman or hating her with every fibre of his being. His sister, played deliciously by Lesley Manville, does not help the situation and a rather incestuous relationship is established between her and Woodcock.
Now, if that paragraph ALONE was the synopsis of the film this would be a one star review. However, Paul Thomas Anderson, master of suspense, doesn’t let us get away that easy. The final act of the film finds his young wife deliberately POISONING HIM with mushrooms. If this wasn’t a twist enough when Woodcock discovers he is being poisoned he INVITES IT and allows it to happen.
There is some interesting commentary on relationships here. What will we put up with in a (here, literally) toxic relationship? How much do we tolerate just for the passion of love? But I think there is something a little subtler at play in this film. PTA said in an interview that he starting conceiving of this movie when his wife (the incredible and incomparable Maya Rudolph) was looking after him while he was sick and realized she hadn’t looked at him with such love in a long time and he hadn’t seen her as a nurturer in the same amount of time. So he thought it would be interesting if someone was deliberately keeping him sick. The film explores more than a toxic relationship but also looks at the idea of need and perfection. How far will both of these characters go to feel something? Woodcock finds himself a more invested and compassionate lover during these times and his work improves. Alma feels necessary in the relationship and gets the love she desires. It’s a really clever device and PTA of course pulls it off beautifully.
It’s honestly as if Anderson knew we would be bored after an hour and a half. He connects us to the character of Alma who is feeling useless in her relationship to Woodcock. He makes us question what we are watching and then, just when we feel redundant he slips in one of the most interesting and subtle plot twists I’ve seen in a long time. It’s what bumps that one star rating to a three.
The final note (pun intended) that I will make on this film is that the score is absolutely incredible. Do yourself a favour and download the song “House of Woodcock” from the soundtrack. The subtle piano music coupled with hauntingly beautiful strings is outstanding. Johnny Greenwood won’t win the Oscar for score (because have you seen how stacked this category is?) but his name shouldn’t be forgotten.
It’s interesting that a movie about fashion design couldn’t be less about fashion design but that’s just what Paul Thomas Anderson likes to do to you. He’ll convince you it’s about one thing for an hour and a half – and then poison you in the last half an hour.
Here are the podcast: