Synopsis: Set in the glamour of 1950’s post-war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock and his sister Cyril are at the center of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutants and dames with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Women come and go through Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover. Once controlled and planned, he finds his carefully tailored life disrupted by love. (IMDB)
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, and Lesley Manville
Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 130mins
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For those who don’t know, this film serves as the last for famed actor Daniel Day-Lewis (at least for now). In this film, he plays a renowned dressmaker named Reynolds Woodcock. Woodcock was an introverted genius with an eccentric personality that his sister and business manager Cyril (Manville) tried to reign in. He would constantly shift from muse to muse after losing interest or if they’ve outgrown their usefulness. Things changed for him once meets a new muse, a woman named Alma (Krieps), for whom he had a much deeper relationship with.
Woodcock’s personality and his obsession with his work made any deep relationship problematic since he would often choose his work first. Woodcock’s relationship with Alma was different and it was this difference that made them compelling to watch. She challenged his way of life because she was so different than what he was used to. He ironically craved human connection while still isolating himself in his work. Despite how he may have felt about her, the conflict between these potential lives was still there as he would alternate between the two.
It’s just a shame that the film didn’t explore Woodcock’s eccentricities with any considerable depth nor his need to sew secrets in his works. This continued with the other main characters as they weren’t particularly developed either. Cyril isn’t given much of a range and was not much more than a collection of stern looks. Alma was defined as a woman who fell in love with Woodcock and his genius. It was this relationship that defined the film.
Woodcock and Alma’s relationship was a back and forth game with each firm in their beliefs about how they saw their relationship. It seemed one-sided at first but it’s hard to know for sure because of his eccentric personality. Their difference in beliefs and Woodcock’s wavering personality led them to butt heads on several occasions and begin to reevaluate their own self-worth. With that and the few dark turns it makes along the way, we start to question whether these two people should really be with one another and the way the story justifies it at the end felt unearned.
Story aside, the film is definitely beautiful to look at thanks to its cinematography and set design and well shot which made the story more engaging, even with the relatively slow pace. The score has been lauded universally by others. It was excellent but there was simply too much of it which often distracted from the action on screen.
The best part of the film was the performances from the three leads and their excellent chemistry. Day-Lewis was great here as Woodcock, the obsessive, introverted artist who craved order. He was always at his best when acting alongside Krieps’s Alma. She goes toe to toe with him as she stood up for her character in her relationship with Woodcock. She showed great emotional range while mirroring Alma’s progression throughout her relationship with Woodcock. Manville was great as the stern Cyril despite there not being much else with her character.
Overall, this was a good, well-directed character drama with terrific visuals, score, despite being overbearing, and some great performances by its three leads, including Daniel Day-Lewis in his final film role.