Phantom Thread (2017)

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Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville

A Mighty Breakfast

The movie world jumped for joy when they heard that Daniel Day-Lewis was reuniting with Paul Thomas Anderson once more for another period epic. Although it was upsetting to hear that it would be Day-Lewis’ final swansong, there was no doubt that it would be a suitable film to bow out in style with and I’m delighted to confirm that that’s true.

Although not as powerful as the duo’s previous There Will Be Blood, Phantom Thread is an exquisitely crafted film with phenomenal performances and enigmatic characters that dare you never to tear your eyes from the screen. There’s a tremendous tension bubbling beneath the film’s stylish exterior, yet that tension never quite explodes in the way you might expect.

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Phantom Thread is a love story with a strange twist. It follows a fashion designer called Reynolds Woodcock who is about as fascinating as a character gets. A beyond fussy workaholic who lives with his coldly reserved sister (played beautifully by Lesley Manville) and feels utterly cursed despite living lavishly. We meet him at his lowest point during breakfast where his latest relationship is in tatters. His sister convinces him to go away for a while where he meets Vicky Krieps’ Alma, a shy waitress who becomes besotted with the eccentric genius after he orders enough food to feed the Vatican City. From then on we’re treated with the weirdly captivating ups and downs of their beyond volatile relationship.

Some might say that nothing much happens in the film’s 130 minute running time. I heard an old dear behind me say, ‘well that was far too long. I would’ve edited that down.’ But thank god they didn’t hire her as editor because there’s so much more going on beneath the surface. This is a character-driven film, very much like Anderson’s previous There Will Be Blood and The Master and as such requires multi-layered, strong performances to carry the narrative along and this film does so in spade loads.

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It doesn’t come as much surprise that Daniel Day-Lewis gives an outstanding Oscar-worthy performance given that the man already has three of them. It would be wonderful to see him win a record-breaking fourth but it looks as though this year belongs to Gary Oldman. He completely transforms into the character and was extreme as ever when preparing for the role. Everyone on set had to refer to him as his character’s name and he even learnt how to sew and make dresses. The result is another astonishing performance, if it really is his final film then it’s a pretty spectacular exit.

Equally as magnetic is Vicky Krieps, a relatively unknown actress from Luxembourg who is entirely believable as the young muse falling head over heels in love with Woodcock’s peculiar charm. Lesley Manville is also quietly hilarious as the ultra-frosty sister whom Woodcock adores. In fact there’s a quiet hilarity running through the entire film. Woodcock’s eccentricities make him appear as a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode at any moment. The slightest noise at breakfast riles him, as does cooking anything in butter. His outbursts are both funny and sad at the same time. Funny because they seem so trivial and sad because this is obviously a man who struggles to find happiness in anything despite having it all.

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The film is also beautiful to look at, as any film about beauty and the fashion industry should be. You could proudly roll it down the catwalk for everyone to marvel at. Anderson even worked as his own director of photography for the film and the result is luscious imagery, some even quite haunting. There’s a heightened sense of reality in the film which makes it feel dreamlike in quality.

In some ways Phantom Thread is the opposite of There Will Be Blood. It’s far more subtle and contained with most of the drama happening within Woodcock’s majestic home. It doesn’t have the same raging intensity and is instead surprisingly tender. It leaves you with much to think about and even if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like their films to leave them thinking, you can’t help but be astounded by the highest calibre of acting. Films like this don’t come around too often so let’s treasure it and cherish it even more so that it could be the last time we see the greatest actor of our generation on screen.

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Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

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Director: Mandie Fletcher

Stars: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Swahala

An honest review from a massive fan

You might not think it to look at me but Ab Fab is my life. I’ve been watching Absolutely Fabulous ever since I can remember. In fact I can remember quite vividly being five or six years old and completely howling at all the episodes my Mum used to watch, which is pretty bad parenting to be honest with all the drug taking and general naughtiness in every episode. However I’m so thankful that my mother let me watch it because I think it really shaped my life in terms of comedy. Me and my sister have to watch Absolutely Fabulous in order to get through life. I don’t think there’s any show on TV that feels fresher and more hilarious the more you watch it apart from Ab Fab.

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The film has to be my most anticipated film ever. Here are a few points just to give you an idea of how excited I was for Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie: I’m traveling Australia at the moment so I stayed up until 3am to watch the Leicester Square premiere on a live stream, I had at least four separate dreams about watching the film (one of them was a dream within a dream), I refreshed the Ab Fab Facebook and Twitter page obsessively every day to get every scrap of news, I watched every single interview with Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, I refused to watch the trailer in fear of it spoiling all the best bits and I entered every competition I could find to win tickets to the premiere in Sydney. I also won those tickets and spent about $600 to fly to Sydney in order to attend that premiere.

This is a show which I know every single word to and still laugh every time. This is far more than a show to me, it’s a religion, it’s a drug which I constantly crave. Attending that premiere was one of the greatest nights of my life. The whole experience was completely overwhelming. I’d just been within touching distance of two of my biggest idols in life (Jen and Jo if you hadn’t have guessed) and then the film played. It was all too much to take in. Of course it was a total blast but it went by in a flash! I genuinely thought that it was halfway through but then the credits rolled and I was dumbfounded. I saw the film again a couple of days later just so I could properly assess it.

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Obviously if you’ve read all of that jargon above then you’ll know that this review is going to be horrendously biased. I will say though that if you’ve never seen an episode of Absolutely Fabulous then don’t start with the film because it is made for the fans. Even if you’re a causal fan, the chances are that you won’t like the film. Jennifer definitely wrote this film for the hardcore fans and I take my hat off to her for that. I’m sure that the studio would’ve pressured her to try and make the film accessible for everyone, but she hasn’t done that. It’s a continuation of the series and it’s all the better for it. Ab Fab has always moved forward so why should it stop for newcomers now?

I watched the film in a theatre jam-packed with fans as big as me and there were massive laughs and cheers at almost every minute. I’ve got to be honest and say that I wasn’t entirely sure if it would work as a film. With all the celebrity cameos being announced it looked as though it could slide into the Mrs Brown’s Boys D’movie route. Also Jennifer has never written a film before and film screenplays are very different to the telly. However, I can safely say that Absolutely Fabulous does completely work on the big screen. The cameos aren’t as forced as I had feared, in fact many celebs end up playing actual roles instead of just themselves.

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The film opens in the only way it could with Patsy and Eddy rocking up to a fashion show, getting blathered and stumbling back the next morning to straight-laced Saffy in a state that would make Lindsay Lohan blush. It’s a stellar (or should I say Stella?) opening which basically sums up why we love Ab Fab in five minutes. From then on we’re straight into an onslaught of fan favourite characters including: Mother, Bo, Marshal, Claudia Bing and Lulu all wrapped up in a hysterical, albeit fairly loose, plot about Edina accidentally knocking Kate Moss into the Thames.

It has to be said that Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley are absolutely on fire in their roles as the fabulous friends. A lot of reviewers seem shocked that they’re still so good after 25 years but they’ve never really stopped playing these characters. People look at it as a show from the 90’s and whilst the last full series aired in 2003, there have been specials leading all the way up to 2012 so all of the cast involved remain as fresh as ever. Joanna Lumley in particular shines in this film though. She’s 70 years old and still has such impeccable comic timing and chews up every scene she’s in despite not eating since 1973.

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I was surprised at the amount of references and in-jokes included in the film for the fans but all of them were a delight. There are plenty of fresh jokes fired at you as well. The laughs come thick and fast, barely giving you time to breathe for 90 minutes! The film also moves at quite a nice pace in the first half, setting itself up for a proper comic caper but it never quite lives up to that promise. The film’s marketed as “Patsy and Eddy on the run!” But without spoiling anything, this doesn’t really happen. At first I was a little disappointed at the lack of momentum in the second half but on a second viewing I realised that a big chase movie really wouldn’t be in the spirit of Ab Fab. It’s always been more about sitting back with a bottle of bolly and this is what the film sticks to.

It might not be as strong as say, Alpha Papa, in terms of sitcom to movie adaptations but as a comedy it does the most important part perfectly, making us laugh. The effects might be a little shoddy and Mandie Fletcher’s directing cockeyed at times, but the film never fails to deliver laughs. It also doesn’t lose focus too much so there’s always the perfect balance between plot drive and comedy. How wonderful it is too to have a film made by and starring older women! Everyone knows that the film industry is an ageist and sexist one run predominantly by men, so it’s lovely to see a film dominated by talented females doing so well at the box office.

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Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie isn’t supposed to be taken seriously. It isn’t going to sweep the oscars and nor is it trying to. Jennifer Saunders has created a consistently hilarious romp for the fans which allows you to switch off and be happy. Most reviewers call the film over-stretched but if anything I found it a little rushed and under developed! There are plenty of plot points and new characters left unexplored to their full potential but hopefully all will be resolved in the inevitable sequel. It’s not the best film ever made but there are lines in this film which I’ll be using for the rest of my life. Just like the TV series, it’s endlessly re-watchable and, as Patsy so perfectly puts it when asked by Lola why she’s stuck around for so long, “It’s bloody good fun!” And isn’t that the reason why us fans have been sticking around for so long too? For hardcore fans of the show, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is a comedy classic.

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