JANUARY 12, 2017 -- Daniel Day-Lewis has stated that his latest film, "The Phantom Thread", would be his last film. Presumably he is financially comfortable and the three time Oscar winner has nothing left to prove, so there is little reason to doubt him. After watching it, it would be great to say, "Boy, now THAT'S a great way to end a career!" But I cannot.


Much like Gene Hackman's "Welcome to Mooseport", Clint Eastwood's "Trouble With the Curve", and Sean Connery's "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" I walked away shaking my head thinking that is no way to go out. Oh, it's not that DDL didn't fulfill his part of the deal with a fabulous performance. It's just that the story feels unfinished with incomplete characters.


In a nutshell, DDL plays Reynolds Woodcock, a high end British fashion designer for the truly upper crust in the 1950s. He apparently has amassed a fortune by designing one-of-a-kind dresses for wealthy women - extremely wealthy women - including royalty. He is hypercritical of his work and demanding of his minions; his estate is his "factory".

The film opens with him completely uninvolved with his current gal pal, even while she is making every effort to regain his attention. To resolve the issue, he allows his right hand woman, Cyril (played deliciously by Lesly Manville), to dispatch the young woman - dissolving whatever was left of the relationship. After retiring a cleint, Cyril suggests he go to the country; which is what he does,


While in the country, he encounters a comely young waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps) at a small cafe. He is immediately taken aback by her and invites her to dinner and then to model for him. At once he makes her his living mannequin and begins to style all his outfits on her. Cyril points out that it is because of her stomach "pouch" and small breast as to why he likes her body.


As their relationship develops it becomes obvious that his persnickety personality is going to be a problem with Alma. But instead of ducking and running as the previous young lady did, Alma makes herself a prima donna that he cannot live without. It is a maneuver that at first annoys Cyril but is then admired by her. Ironically it is Cyril's editorials and quips that make the film more watchable. She steals every scene, even with her unspoken gestures.


Herein lies the main fault of director Paul Thomas Anderson' film. We never know what the relationship is/was between Cyril and Reynolds; why does he allow her run the household as well as his company. This is annoying because she is involved in more than half of the scenes. We know that Alma isn't British, but it is never established where she is from or even her background. Finally, how did he become so prominent? We learn his mother taught him the trade but after that... huh?


For a film that is two hours, ten minutes, I would expect more completion, so I can't say it's a great film just because DDL is in another Paul Thomas Anderson story. Their last collaberation was "There Will Be Blood".


"The Phantom Thread" is a beautifully photographed, delightfully acted romantic drama that ultimately will leave you saying "So what!" Incomplete, but very watchable.   -- GRADE B --   GEOFF BURTON