The film is a coming-of-age romantic dramedy starring two first-time actors in Cooper Hoffman (son of Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Alana Haim (of the band Haim). Rounding out the cast are much bigger names, including Sean Penn, Bradley Cooper, Tom Waits and Maya Rudolph. Cooper has a small but flashy role as Jon Peters, producer of A Star is Born and one-time paramour of Barbra Streisand. Beyond that, not much is known about the plot.
I very much enjoyed revisiting Paul Thomas Anderson’s eight films, some of which I hadn’t seen in many years. Revisiting the work of great auteurs always reveals additional layers, new things to appreciate.
Even so, my overall rankings didn’t shift much. Only three movies changed positions, two going up and one going down. Magnolia suffered the biggest drop, while Phantom Thread made the biggest jump. It’s all just a matter of degree, though. I heartily recommend every one of these films.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s most recent film, at the time of this writing, is the one — on its face — least like the others. 2017’s Phantom Thread is the first Anderson film not set in the United States; in fact, it’s the first not set in or just outside of California.
Set in London in 1954, a few years after The Master but on the other side of the globe, the film follows fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day Lewis) and the many women in his orbit. Woodcock is a respected artist but an insufferable, fussy prig. He needs everything just so and erupts like a toddler when the world doesn’t cooperate. He is enabled by his stern sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), who runs the House of Woodcock. Like Peggy in The Master, she is the real center of power, no matter what Reynolds imagines.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s eighth film, 2014’s Inherent Vice, was his first true adaptation. While There Will Be Blood was very loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s Oil, this film is a very faithful telling of Thomas Pynchon’s novel. Inherent Vice is actually the first film ever made from one of Pynchon’s notoriously hard-to-crack books.
The modern film noir, set in 1970 and soaked in pot and paranoia, follows private detective Larry “Doc” Sportello through a byzantine plot involving kidnapping, murder, gentrification, police informants, and an international heroine syndicate. It’s also a love story.
Anderson took five years to follow up his critically-lauded There Will Be Blood, returning in 2012 with the post-World War II drama The Master. Discussed in the run-up to its release as a “Scientology movie,” the film does take many cues from the life of L. Ron Hubbard in telling a story about Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), founder of a movement called The Cause.
But Dodd is a supporting player here, and the movie isn’t particularly interested in the origins of The Cause. The cult serves as the backdrop for Anderson’s real interest: the relationship between Dodd and Freddie Quell, a World War II vet who stumbles into his life.