Last night, months after the rest of you gays, I finally watched Phantom Thread and let me tell you it had everything I was promised; painful levels of repression, sub-textual pegging realized via poison, Daniel Day-Lewis’s sexy fucked up thumbs, Vicky Krieps being iconic in every single shot. I’m in love.
It was also definitely a rom-com wearing Oscar bait’s couture gowns and I’m going to prove it.
The first step in any scientific process is obviously checking to make wikipedia hasn’t already proved you wrong from the start. It defines the romantic comedy as “a genre with light-hearted, humorous plotlines, centered on romantic ideals such as that true love is able to surmount most obstacles”.
Is Phantom Thread humorous?
Is it true love? If you find someone who is just as in to the strategic use of sexy poisoning as you are, hold on to them.
Do they have obstacles to surmount? Countless. He’s a the head of a London fashion house, she’s a hotel waitress. He’s obsessed with routine, she butters her toast Really loudly. He’s married to his work, she wants him to open up to her.
The Unsuitable Partner
Straight off we get that rom-com trope that tells us what our protagonist doesn’t want. Nobody that’s going to try and get his attention by making him talk about his feelings , especially not at breakfast.
Johanna: Where have you gone, Reynolds. There’s nothing I can say to get your attention aimed back at me, is there?
Reynolds: I cannot begin my day with a confrontation, please. I’m delivering the dress today, and I can’t take up space with confrontation. I simply don’t have time for confrontations.
It’s going to take someone with a little more initiative than that. When he sees shades of this kind of straightforwardness in Alma her chances of sticking it out seem uncertain but she finally gets with the repression program and gets some better seduction practices. Stealing a dress off a woman who’s passed out drunk, poison mushrooms, telling handsome young doctors to fuck off; that’s where the real romance is at.
He travels to the country the evening before Cyril and goes for breakfast at a hotel, he sees her clumsily waiting tables, they make eyes meet, instant spark. She calls him a hungry boy, he asks her out.
The date starts off great but when they get back to his house things don’t go quite the way she’s expecting. She clearly thinks they’re gonna bone but Reynolds instead tells her about his mother, describes himself as an incurable confirmed bachelor, fits her for a dress and also his sister shows up? Awkwardness, conflict, sexual tension, the works.
Reynolds and Alma absolutely fit the bill of your classic screwball comedy protagonists. He’s charming and hot, he’s got a creative job and a bizarre and abrasive personality. She’s confident and witty, adventurous and open to being swept away into a new and exciting world, but not someone willing to be bulldozed by Demanding Man.
Not to mention this movie has all the physical and verbal comedy you could ask for. Just to list a few key examples:
Reynolds showing up to Alma’s surprise dinner in a vest, jacket and scarf over a set of pajamas is the the greatest thing to have happened possibly ever.
That entire scene? Brilliant. I mean:
Reynolds: As I think you know, Alma, I prefer my asparagus with oil and salt. And knowing this, you’ve prepared the asparagus with butter. Now, I can imagine in certain circumstances being able to pretend that I like it made this way. Right now, I’m just admiring my own gallantry for eating it the way you’ve prepared it.
When she’s pouring him a glass of water, aggressively raising the pitcher so it will splash as loudly as possible and just. pushes the lamp up. Incredible.
Reynolds: Chic? Oh, don’t you start using that filthy little word, Chic! Whoever invented that ought to be spanked in public. I don’t… I don’t even know what that word means! What is that word? Fucking chic! They should be hung, drawn, and quartered. Fucking chic.
The temptation to just list every moment of this movie is real but, if you’ve seen it. You know.
Side note: if you haven’t watched the deleted food fight scene where Lesley Manville smears raspberry jam on Daniel Day-Lewis’s face please go do that now.
When Reynolds decides he’s through with her, Alma decides to reignite the spark that led to their marriage in the first place. This time though she goes big. Cuts up the poison mushrooms right in front of him and cooks up an omelette (with butter, no less). He knows what’s up and he is into it.
That’s romance, babe.