Movie review: Phantom Thread

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to one the last awards’ movie reviews. This time around, we are discussing Phantom Thread!

IMDb summary: Set in 1950’s London, Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover.

Paul Thomas Anderson

Phantom Thread was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, known for such films as Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Inherent Vice (which I’ve finally watched and was confused by) and There Will Be Blood (my favorite picture of his). His direction for Phantom Thread was very particular (and, in a way, quite spectacular). The writing was also very specific and, while I, personally, found a lot of problems with its content, I could also see how other people might have been fascinated by it. Let’s begin!

Writing

Phantom Thread’s narrative was, at its core, a love story, albeit a twisted and toxic one. The portrayal of such a love story was my main problem with the film. I have seen this movie described as a true representation of what it is like being in a relationship with an artist. To me, this looked like a situation, in which the film’s supposed authenticity of representation was used as a poor justification for the toxic relationship of the characters. Also, the assertion of authenticity raised another problem in my mind: according to this film, artists are borderline divine deities, to be sheltered and protected. In my worldview, artists are humans: flawed individuals rather than godlike figures to be privileged and raised above everyone else.

Going back to the love story, I couldn’t buy its progression. The female character stared the film as timid and quiet and seemed to be perfectly happy to be in an abusive and strict relationship. However, then she changed into a femme fatale (went from 0 (every second word from her mouth in the first half was ‘yes’) to Christian Grey levels) and attempted to reassert some power/or even take full control of the relationship by using quite deadly means. Where did that change come from? I did not see any hints at it at the beginning of the film! Also, if deciding to play-up the female character as this quiet but deadly individual, why not have the whole tonne of the movie be a bit more cynical and sinister rather than romantical? The changes in tonne would have made the whole shift seem a bit more possible. Also, was her goal to lower his defense mechanism really the only thing driving her forward? Or did she just want to weasel herself into his business and was basically a gold digger?

The male character was equally awful. He was privileged, pedantic, ridden with mommy issues (which were never really explored, just mentioned), demanding, superior without any good reason, obsessive, pretentious and controlling workaholic. Was he like that because of a mental illness or was he just an awful human being? Did his eccentricities really make him remarkable? I found that assertion quite questionable. Also, what did he see in the female character? A person to love, a prize to desire or a great model for his clothes/a real life dressmaker’s dummy?

The two ideas of writing that I liked the most (or the only two I liked at all) were the assertions that clothing is powerful and transformative and the character of the sister. Her jealousy of the new girlfriend/wife was a bit weird but I did like the fact that she was done with her brother by the end of the film and experienced growth – escaped the cycle that the other two characters remained stuck in.

Directing

Phantom Thread looked like a 1950s movie with its blurry and grainy visuals and soft colors. The designs themselves were beautiful but they also seemed very much of their own time – old rather than classical (time-transcending). The picture was also really slow, and since the story was either angering or extremely unengaging for me, I felt that it dragged more than a few times.

Acting

The two lead actors – Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps – did a good enough job portraying the character. But, as I found their characters atrocious, I couldn’t really enjoy the actors’ performances. The chemistry between the two actors was interesting. I didn’t see it as positive but rather more confrontational and sometimes awkward, uncomfortable to watch. I don’t think this was Day-Lewis best performance and I certainly don’t think he should retire after it. For Krieps, this was her English-language debut (or one of the first few roles in English) and it was not necessarily the most successful one.

 

 

In short, Phantom Thread was a beautifully shot film, whose writing left me confused and annoyed. Might just be a personal thing, though, as a lot of critics seemed to have loved it.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Phantom Thread trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Downsizing

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to January – the month of great awards movies and awful mainstream ones. I don’t know how many reviews of the latter I’m going to be posting but you can be sure that the awards’ film reviews will be plentiful. For example, you are reading one now – this is Downsizing.

IMDb summary: A social satire in which a man realizes he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself to five inches tall, allowing him to live in wealth and splendor.

  1. Downsizing was written and directed by Alexander Payne (of The Descendants and Nebraska). Payne’s long-time collaborator Jim Taylor was also credited as a writer and a producer. To begin with, I thought that these two filmmakers had a genius premise for a movie. I haven’t really seen a social satire that tackled overpopulation as the main problem and definitely haven’t seen a film that had such a cheeky yet somehow believable solution to the problem. The opening sequence of the film was really good – it effectively set up the idea of downsizing as well as it global outreach – I instantly started to believe in the world of the movie. Then, the picture flashed to its main character and that’s where the problems started to arise.
  2. While I don’t necessarily think that the main character was bad, I do strongly believe that the story of the main character was too simplistic (for such an incredible premise, the narrative should have been more unique too). The wife’s decision to leave the husband was such a cliche way to create conflict. The fact that the movie started with one love story and ended with another was not the best decision either because by focusing so much on the romance, Downsizing forgot to explore a multitude of concepts that it introduced.  I wanted less predictability and more time spent on the economic, political, and social implications of downsizing; the abuse of the new technology (cause there always is a darker side behind a shiny billboard), and just the problem of overpopulation itself.
  3. Alexander Payne did a good job directing Downsizing. He realized the world of the story well and visually blended the small and the big worlds almost seamlessly (those visuals had a surrealist feeling to them which was interesting). In addition, Downsizing was billed as a comedy, and, while there were certainly some chucklesome moments, the film definitely wasn’t a laugh-out-loud type of a comedy. My favorite visual (as well as narrative) sequence was the prep for and the actual procedure of downsizing. As I’ve mentioned in the previous part, I wanted to see more of it rather than the love story.
  4. Matt Damon (The Martian, Jason Bourne, The Great Wall) played the lead and was good, but I don’t think that this role will result in any awards’ nominations let alone wins (it’s zero for two for Damon this season as Suburbicon was panned by the critics). Christoph Waltz (Tarzan, Spectre, Tulip Fever) was fun to watch as he was playing an eccentric and creepy character – one straight out of Waltz’s wheelhouse. Kristen Wiig (mother!, Ghostbusters) and Jason Sudeikis had very minor roles but they were great in those and proved to me that I definitely prefer seeing these two actors in more dramatic roles rather in their full-on comedic ones.
  5. The stand-out from the cast, who deservedly is getting all the awards’ recognition for this film was Hong Chau. While her character first appeared to be a comedic stereotype (mostly because of the broken English aspect), she was so much more than that. Chau’s performance was compelling and emotional, innocent yet sophisticated. I’d love to see her winning an Oscar as well as getting more opportunities in Hollywood (she has previously appeared on Big Little Lies and in the picture Inherent Vice).

In short, Downsizing wastes an amazingly original concept on a predictable love story. The cast is good overall but the standout is definitely Hong Chau.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Downsizing trailer

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Movie review: Everest

Movie reviews

Hello!

While technically the awards’ season hasn’t started yet, I believe that we have our first solid contender for the Best Picture nomination. You know how every year at least one more mainstream movie gets nominated? (For example, last year it was American Sniper, a year before that – Gravity.) Well, I think that Everest will be this year’s awards nominated blockbuster. Let’s review it!

IMDb summary: A climbing expedition on Mt. Everest is devastated by a severe snow storm.

Everest film is based on the real events of 1996 Mount Everest disaster. I, personally, knew nothing about this tragic event, since I wasn’t even born when it happened. Also, while I knew that the movie was based on real life events, I didn’t want to research them much beforehand, so that I would not spoil anything for myself. However, I will spoil some stuff in this review, so if you haven’t seen the film and don’t know the real story like I didn’t know it, maybe come back to the review after you watch the film. If you know the story or just don’t care about the spoilers, please – read on.

So, as with all Hollywood movies, one usually hopes for a happy ending. Well, it’s not the case with Everest. The most interesting part is the fact that until the very last minute, I was hoping for a happy ending. I was sure that we, as an audience, would get one. And only when the credits and the memorials came up, I’ve realized that this is not that type of a movie. Huge props to the creators of the film, who were able to keep the audience invested into the film till the very end. Also, they were able to break out of the Hollywood movie stereotype/pattern , which has a somewhat predictable ending and a plot filled with cliches.

Not only does this film keep you invested till the very last minute, it affects your emotions a lot. While at the beginning of the film, you can find some inspirational stuff about following your dreams, at the end, you ultimately arrive at the conclusion that some dreams are not worth risking your life for. Or maybe they are for some people? That’s an open discussion. For me, the film was extremely sad, especially the 2nd part of it and the ending was heartbreaking. I don’t really cry in movies, but I was really tearing up in this one. Thank god, that I was the only person in the last row.

Writing 

This screenplay for the film was written by two British screenwriters – William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy. Nicholson was a co-writer on Gladiator and has received an Oscar nomination for that film. He has also written a few of my favorite films – Les Miserables, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and Unbroken (co-writer). Beaufoy has an Oscar for writing a script for Slumdog Millionaire and he was also one of the writers on the second Hunger Games film – Catching Fire.

I loved what they did with the Everest screenplay. The film had a lot of characters, but they all had their little moments to shine. As a result, this necessary character development allowed the viewers to feel connected to the characters and really care for them in the times of crisis.

Also, the idea that companies like Adventure Consultants and Mountain Madness, who specialize in taking tourists to the summit of the Everest, really exist was a surprising one for me. I knew that were people who want to climb to the highest points of Earth, but I guess I never really expected somebody to allow them to do that for profit. Or that anyone would risk their life for such profit. But, I suppose if there are companies who would take tourists to space, you can’t expect people not to look for financial benefits down here on Earth. Also, as with every sport or occupation, there is a type of rush and desire to reach higher (literally, in their case), so I guess it shouldn’t be that shocking to me.

Directing

The film was directed by Baltasar Kormákur from Iceland. I haven’t seen his other films, but I’ve adored the visuals of Everest. From what I saw in the behind the scenes videos, I can tell you that they filmed a lot of this film on location. And even if they used some green screen and CGI, you could never tell the difference – the film was seamlessly edited. In addition, the scenery of the mountain range was beautiful and terrifying and the same time. The actual climbing footage was suspenseful and exciting.

Acting

This movie has a huge ensemble cast full of A-list actors and all of them bring their A-game. (A-listers and their A-game – sorry for the pun). I will only talk about a few of my favorite performances because this review would be way too long if I spoke about each and every character. Also, since in today’s world, you can’t review the movie without mentioning the color of the actors’ skin, I will just tell you that this film’s cast is predominately white. However, whitewashing is not the issue to the masses, because the film depicts real-life events which involved mainly white people. I’ve gotten extremely tired of people noticing the skin color of the actor before they notice the actual person, so, I hope you felt the sarcasm in a few sentences before this one. Let’s move on.

  • Jason Clarke as Rob Hall was the leading man of the film, whose story was the most heartbreaking one. Until the very end of the film, I wanted to believe that he will make it home to his wife and unborn daughter. Keira Knightley played his wife – Jan Arnold – and their conversations on the phone were extremely emotional and one of the saddest parts of the film. Speaking of the actors performances, I have seen a few films starring Clarke, but he never really stood out to me until this film. For example, I thought that he was only okay in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. However, I do believe his role as Rob Hall was his best performance to date and an amazing comeback after Terminator Genisys. Knightley was also amazing in her small part, but I was always a fan of hers, so that wasn’t surprising to me. 
  • Jake Gyllenhaal as Scott Fischer. Gyllenhaal just keeps impressing me more and more with his every film. His role was quite small here because the film had so many characters, but he was really good in it. I also applaud how versatile he is as an actor, not just with his body (Southpaw review), but with his overall mindset and investment into the character. While watching the film, you never really think about Gyllenhaal as an actor or about any other character that he has played before. You just sit there and marvel at a complete transformation of a true actor. 
  • Josh Brolin as Beck Weathers and John Hawkes as Doug Hansen. The reason that I’m putting these two people together is because I want to talk about the contrast that their characters brought to the film. Beck was a rich doctor, who climbed the mountain because he felt depressed at home with his wife, and Doug was a poor mailman, who did the climb to inspire kids from poor families. Beck’s reasons seemed much more selfish than Doug’s. The sad part is that Beck was the one who made it home and Doug didn’t. However, Dough reached the summit and Beck did not. So, their stories and the characters themselves, although contrasting at first, ended up being kinda equal. Beck’s reaction to the news of Doug’s death also added to that equality, because he seemed really upset by it. Speaking about the actors performance, I really enjoyed both of their portrayals of these real life climbers. I’m more familiar with Brolin’s work because he is Thanos in the MCU (very disappointing villain so far) and he also starred in Inherent Vice – the film that I have yet to watch but really want to. Brolin will also start in another movie this year, coming out very soon – Sicario – opposite  Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro (another MCU actor). On the other hand, I don’t know much about his co-star John Hawkes, but I really want to watch Winter’s Bone – a Jennifer Lawrence film which Hawkes also stars in.
  • Sam Worthington as Guy CotterEmily Watson as Helen Wilton and Elizabeth Debicki as Dr. Caroline Mackenzie were the 3 main members of the base camp team. While they were not part of the action of the film, they reaction shots mimicked the audience’s reactions perfectly. To my mind, these actors really played well with each other and were a convincing group. About the actual actors, Debicki has only recently appeared on my radar after The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I really liked her there and felt the same in this film as well. She will also be in this year’s Macbeth with Michael Fassbender – another film which I definitely want to watch. Watson was also a great addition to the cast. I’m not really familiar with her work, but really loved one of her latest films – Testament of Youth, though, she only had a small part in there. Worthington (another Terminator) was also really good in his role. Avatar is still my favorite movie of his and I haven’t seen him do better than that film so far. However, I haven’t seen Cake – last year’s Jennifer Aniston film, which received quite a good word of mouth. True, all the praises were directed at Aniston for her performance, but maybe Worthington was quite good as well. I suppose I need to watch the film to really know.

All in all, Everest is so far my favorite film of this fall and, in my opinion, a strong contender for the awards season. I hope that its release date (an early one) won’t be the thing that stops it from getting the recognition it deserves. The film is visually appealing to the eyes and emotionally captivating for the soul. Huge ensemble cast brings their A-game to the table, while the accomplished screenwriters and the director do justice to this heartbreaking real life disaster story.

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: Everest trailer

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