Don’t be fooled, ladies and gentlemen. This is just Fences all over again. A more aristocratic Fences, if you will, but Fences nevertheless. Critics like it. Check. Good acting. Check. Best actor nominations. Check. People making other people miserable. Check and double check. Those people being miserable include us poor suckers in the audience that paid to see this excrutiatingly slow story about Munchausen syndrome by proxy or maybe Stockholm syndrome. If this is “intoxicating romantic tension,” then you need to have several drinks before you sit down to watch it.
Reynolds and his sister, Cyril, operate the House of Woodcock, dressmakers for the elite of London and beyond. Reynolds is the designer who gets away with being cruel to everyone because he is the owner, and the genius. Told by his sister that he needs a rest, Reynolds meets his muse, Alma, who he promptly seduces. Even though she is his “perfect size,” Alma soon gets on his nerves, i.e., she disrupts his routine. Determined to earn his love, and spend some time together, she sends all the help away for the evening, and cooks for him. It goes badly because the asparagus is cooked in butter rather than oil. (Reynolds is not a likable guy.) Will he send her away as he did all the others? Will anyone care?
Daniel Day-Lewis is Reynolds and is aloof, snobbish and a schmuck. That is to say, he played this character exactly as written. If he is going to stop making movies, I hope he ends with a better character than this one. Vicky Krieps is Alma, and she was a good choice opposite Day. Lesley Manville is Cyril and also shares the cold, aristocratic manner in her role. You don’t get the feeling that there was a lot of warmth in the House of Woodcock. Manville is underutilized as the camera is always on either Day-Lewis or Krieps.
If this movie was set is 2017, then #metoo would pop up on the screen or the police would have been called to investigate a felony or two. To top it all off, the ending makes absolutely no sense. There is a reason this movie was moved to January. Unless the Oscar talk can somehow save it, it is not going to be a commercial success. You are not likely to tell your neighbors to go see this movie without warning them that it is a “little different.” For me, it was a long, hard slog. Bottom line: This is your $9.00 nap movie. Sweet dreams.
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