Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread ★★★★½

PTA's loose-limbed filmmaking honed to its sharpest, most fully plotted point since the pressure cooker of Punch-Drunk Love. Like that film, Phantom Thread takes the romantic comedy and puts it in a taffy pull that produces something so warped as to be unrecognizable, in the process corrupting generic conventions. The core relationship, between Reynolds and Alma, at first brings to the foreground the imbalance between creator and muse, with Woodcock's profoundly bitchy, controlling attitude alternating between frequently patronizing affection for Alma and a view of her as a breathing clotheshorse. Yet almost from the start, when Alma moves to open her passenger door on their first date before Reynolds can gallantly do it for her, it's clear that she will not take him lying down, and the rest of the film unfolds as an intricate back-and-forth game with hard, brutal resets when things get too out of control. I first saw this at a press screening, but I loved seeing it this time for the Fifty Shades Freed trailer that played before it. A fitting contrast: titillating fan-fic scenarios of dom-sub relationships matched with a less outwardly sexy but more dementedly erotic study of how those two roles can constantly be in flux.

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