Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps
Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson trades in the freewheeling West Coast 70s vibe of his last picture Inherent Vice for buttoned-up society London in the 50s, for this singular and compelling psychological drama meets twisted love story meets black comedy. Day-Lewis, in what is billed as his final role, is celebrated dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock. He lives with his sister Cyril (a wonderfully chilly Manville) who manages his private and personal life, and serves as his confidante in a mutually supportive but slightly off-seeming arrangement. On a trip to the country Woodcock is captivated by a young waitress, Alma (Krieps). She becomes his muse, he moves her into his luxurious townhouse and an affair begins. But Reynolds proves just as fussy and fastidious in his personal habits as in his professional life and he makes no attempt to change his habits to accommodate his new partner. The scenario of a middle-aged martinet and his younger partner brings to mind such gaslighting greats as Rebecca and Vertigo (the main character’s name is presumably an allusion to Hitchcock). But Alma turns out to be a more resourceful and wilful heroine than Reynolds anticipated, and midway the story is transformed into something more perversely fascinating. While not all will warm to Anderson’s removed approach, cineastes will revel in the sumptuous, swooning aesthetic, with the leisurely pacing and Johnny Greenwood’s genteel but mildly unsettling classic score magically transporting the viewer into the 50s milieu. Day-Lewis turns in a typically immersed portrait of entitled and wholly self-absorbed masculinity; Manville is equally impressive as the formidable sphinx-like sister; and Luxembourger (it is a word) newcomer Krieps commendably holds her own as the alternately plain/luminous muse.