“Phantom Thread,” four and a half stars out of five. In theaters.
I don’t know what I fell in love with first – the incredible score by Jonny Greenwood or the orderly nature of the House of Woodcock in the tenderly shot and surprisingly funny “Phantom Thread.” I didn’t think Paul Thomas Anderson had it in him to be a hopeless romantic for fashion, for London and for the 1950s. And Daniel Day-Lewis, in what is said to be his final role, would what to play a vulnerable yet complicated man.
Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, an acclaimed dressmaker for the richest and most powerful women in Europe. Everything is very precise – his all-female crew walk into his home, sport white coats and delicately handle the fabric. Overseeing everything is his sister Cyril (the always magnificent Lesley Melville), who protects the business and her brother’s heart. During a trip to the country, Woodcock falls for Alma (Vicky Kreips), a plain waitress at an inn with a strong spirit of her own. Woodcock thinks he can mold her like he had with his former lovers as he sees himself as a immortal bachelor. Alma, however, has a mind of her own full of ideas and actions.
This makes for an abusive push and pull between the dressmaker and his muse. Whoever gets an upper hand is quickly robbed of it as fast as a needle stitches a hem. While Woodcock surrounds himself with women of different shapes, backgrounds and personalities, he doesn’t know how to handle them. He had been used to throwing them a dress to keep them in the place he wants them to be, but he can’t confront them either. He leaves that job for Cyril.
Woodcock, on the surface, looks like the opposite of Daniel Plainview, the monstrous and greedy oilman in the previous Day-Lewis/Anderson pairing, “There Will Be Blood.” Plainview was completely absent of women, whereas Woodcock has no dealings with men. Yet, their need for cruelty and isolation is the same, as Plainview loses himself in drilling that he pushes away his son HW and Woodcock gets buried in his designs and mannerisms that even Alma’s eating habits drive him mad.
All the while, “Phantom Thread” is a feast on the eyes and ears with the lovely dresses by costume designer Mark Bridges and Greenwood’s score. There are nice cues in the music that signal when it’s a safer moment when Woodcock and Alma are in sync, and then it takes a turn when the relationship sours. It’s a roller coaster to the sound of piano and strings; yet it is dreamy and nostalgic.
In some parts, this drama takes some humorous turns into Crazyland City with the romantic triangle between Woodcock, Alma and Cyril that seem as out of place as the dressmaker’s magenta socks. Nevertheless, there is always room for insanity and for times not to take yourself so seriously. What is amazing is how the young Kreips can stand toe-to-toe with one of the best actors of a generation. Besides Melville, Day-Lewis is an equal and sometimes towering presence, but Kreips can shrink him down to size.
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” three and a half stars. In theaters.
Private pain on display is exemplified on three orange billboards less than a mile away from Mildred Hayes’ house in this contemporary drama. Hayes (Frances McDormand), whose daughter Angela was raped, murdered and burned, questions Ebbing police, specifically Chief William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), why no arrests have been made seven months after the crime. The billboard ignites the simmering anger that has been under the surface in the close-knit, small town.
With the town population backing Willoughby and the force’s most visible face being the idiotic, racist cop Dixon (Sam Rockwell), Hayes does not have much support for her one-woman army. Pretty much, everyone is fighting their own battles in a public way. Seeking justice is not a clean route to travel as tempers fly into extreme matters at every reaction. If someone cuts you off in traffic, fire bomb their vehicle. Ebbing is not the kind of town where people bond together to feel your pain, and Hayes is the living, breathing version of it.
The audience doesn’t get to know Angela. She’s shown in a brief flashback and her case file is seen twice. The first time is through a gruesome set of crime-scene photographs of her burned body. Instead, the audience sees the worst in people. Hayes is not the type who sits around waiting for something to happen nor does she thinks things through. It’s a character that perfect for McDormand to play – a strong, no-nonsense firecracker. There are some doses of vulnerability, mostly in times with her teenage Robbie (Lucas Hedges) and her ex-husband Charlie (John Hawkes).
The police aren’t in a positive light, with Dixon as the marked problem who had previously tortured a black man but continues to serve the force. The chief is not much better himself, but with a cancer diagnosis, Willoughby is a bonafide saint.
What sets “Three Billboards” apart from other 2017 films is that it is very current. It feels like a time capsule of 2016 or the live version of a Facebook newsfeed. It does this by not being preachy, not being clean cut. However, it does accomplish this by allowing McDormand to be her most McDormand-est. She has played these fearless, tough characters for decades, and as Hayes, she’s going for it. Rockwell is the same way as the conflicted cop. They’re acting without a safety net, and while it feels like they’re not stretching much, pushing their talents to 11 is more than what most actors will do.
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” four stars. Streaming on Google Play and iTunes.
An eye for an eye goes too far in the latest psychological horror film from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. What’s strange about this offering is that it’s the most logical movie he has ever made.
Colin Farrell plays Dr. Steve Murphy, a celebrated cardiologist and a recovering alcoholic. He lives in the perfect house with the perfect wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman); perfect son, Bob (Sunny Suljic), and talented daughter, Kim (Raffey Cassidy). The good doctor also befriends a young teen, Martin (Barry Keoghan), the son of one of Murphy’s patients who died.
Martin’s relationship with Murphy becomes obsessive as the teen blames the doctor for his father’s death. He meets and becomes accepted by the family, but then Martin’s vengeful nature emerges. One by one, one of Murphy’s family members becomes paralyzed from the waist down. As more symptoms emerge, that person becomes closer to death. Murphy can stop this from getting worse if he gives into Martin’s demands.
What unfolds is the ugly desire to survive, to not take the blame and to keep things beautiful. Heavily laced with symbolism and personal truths, “Killing” may require additional screenings or a glance at its Wikipedia page to get some of the directions in which the movie flows. Murphy is a complicated character as he can be a victim of a teen’s sick game or he is the king of dishonesty. Farrell does so much here; even his well-groomed beard is in the act. Kidman’s Anna is level-headed and strong as she sees her family deteriorate at the hands of a young man.