There are many reasons to catch Phantom Thread at your local cineplex. Whether it’s a continuing passion to watch films that were shot on actual film or following the creative journeys of Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day Lewis, Phantom Thread is a value added experience. That being said, it’s Vicky Krieps who steals the show . . .
While Oscar season has given us a healthy (yet deserved) dose Timothée Chalamet and filmmaker Greta Gerwig, Vicky Krieps has surprisingly gone under the radar. Though she has received several nominations for her work as Alma, dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock’s (Daniel Day Lewis) muse, she did not receive Oscar, Golden Globes, or Critics Choice nominations. I’m one of the many voters (I’m a BFCA member) who overlooked Krieps’ work, and I wasn’t able to watch Phantom Thread before the Critics Choice voting deadline (I never received the screener but that’s still a horrible excuse).
Our introduction to Alma is during breakfast, as Woodcock orders a pretty hearty breakfast. As their eyes meet from across the room, it’s an exchange which exemplifies their eventual union. Most narratives have the woman being the object of a male gaze, with the man’s immediate attraction taking center stage as the woman subtly takes in his appreciation.
Phantom Thread takes this trope and turns it on its head, as Alma is much more than an artist’s lifelong muse. Instead, she meets Woodcock’s stare head on and ushers in her own attraction to this much older man. Muses, visions of beauty, or objects of desire are living and breathing human beings. Paul Thomas Anderson takes that obvious fact and makes it the very heart of his storyline.
Alma, possessing her own dreams and sense of agency, is the driving force behind Phantom Thread. Behind Woodcock’s secret messages in the lining of his dresses or the intricate universe of a fashion infused 1950s London lies the inspiring fact that Alma refuses to recede into that world. She is far from a compliant vessel, and she infuses much needed verve into the House of Woodcock. Lesley Manville, who along with Daniel Day Lewis received an Oscar nod for Phantom Thread, plays the initially skeptical sister of the union. Without giving too much away, Alma is the story’s unwavering soul, and it’s no surprise that the track “Alma” is, to use a friend’s description, the most “achingly beautiful” moment of Jonny Greenwood’s sublime soundtrack.
During the breakfast/initial meeting scene, Alma must remember everything Woodcock orders (he took her order slip for safe keeping), and this seductive and difficult task is easily handled. Krieps, a relative unknown before Phantom Thread, had the monumental challenge of being Daniel Day Lewis’ acting peer and Paul Thomas Anderson’s deceptive lead (Phantom Thread, in reality, is really Alma’s story), and though one could assume some trepidation at the prospect, she handled the role with aplomb.
With an open faced warmth, beauty, and vulnerability of Ingrid Bergman, Krieps delivers one of the year’s best performances. Fluent in German, French, and English, Krieps’ intelligence shines throughout the storyline, and even though some of Alma’s decisions will leave viewers perplexed (maybe angered?), her innate likability makes Alma, well, likable!
Spoilers below….please don’t read if you haven’t seen Phantom Thread!! But if you have seen it feel free to read on if you must!!
Alma’s inclusion of poisoning Woodcock with the garden’s mushrooms to the near point of death may absolutely sicken its share of viewers, but the biggest reveal came from Woodcock’s own complicit involvement in his undoing. By knocking on heaven’s door but actually not passing through, Woodcock is able to see his mother’s spirit, rejuvenate his creative spirits, and gain an even deeper bond with Alma. With his subtle, verbal abuse of Alma and his “old so and so” Cyril (Lesley Manville), Woodcock may not be a literal poisoner, but he does leave emotional scars in his wake. Their decision to stay together, along with Alma’s flash forward to a baby moment, was a beautiful thing to see, but I know other viewers will have a much different take on their relationship.
One of my biggest takeaways from the 2017 movie season is Vicky Krieps is an actress with immeasurable talent, and it’s a shame she didn’t receive as much critical fanfare as PTA, Daniel Day Lewis, or Lesley Manville. She is Phantom Thread’s secret weapon, and it’s safe to say her career will forever be changed from the experience (she has signed on to The Girl in the Spider’s Web).
The Oscars are right around the corner, and if you’re in the mood of a classic film to watch on the silver screen, Phantom Thread will definitely do the trick. You might be coming for the Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day Lewis reunion (Phantom Thread reaches the stratospheric heights of There Will Be Blood).
Have you seen Phantom Thread and do you feel Vicky Krieps should have received an Oscar nomination? What did you think of the movie in general? Feel free to comment below!