Seeing an artist at work, in this case a designer sew designs and direct models, is where I find my most complete satisfaction. Reynolds is very much the genius micro-manager who guides each fold into perfection. His personal life, however, is not so easily handled as he finds out when he falls in love, a designer that brooks no competition.
Reynolds falls for a waitress, Alma (Vicky Krieps), whose stature and curves reach the perfection he seeks, but always, it seems from a design point of view but not predominantly a romantic one. She has a strong will, however, that seeks the place in his life where she is not just a lady in waiting.
After the electric first half, full of his genial moments and self-centered creativity, Phantom Thread settles into a melodrama losing sight of his genius in order to promote Alma's machinations gaining control of his affective life. Although her methods are extreme and worthy of thriller status, the latter half of the film loses the excitement as it relies on formulaic circumstances of whether someone will die or not from the intrigue.
As he did in The Master and There Will be Blood, Thomas helms believably genial outsiders, who, like Woodcock, create beauty in the face of petty politics and personal liabilities. Although I was a bit disappointed in the melodrama, I was thrilled by DDL's performance and PTA's fluid, moody direction. There is very little out there to compete with their genius.