I’m extremely open about my love for Phantom Thread. I watched the 2017 Paul Thomas Anderson film several times in theaters (this was back in the winter when MoviePass allowed you to see a movie more than once) and proceded to talk about it with every person I came in contact with. I purchased an enamel pin that reads: “For the hungry boy.” My friends and co-workers regularly forward me articles and memes relating to the film.
So why am I so obsessed with Phantom Thread? I’m glad you asked! The costumes are extremely detailed and essential to the story—the film won the Oscar for best costume design (along with a jet ski). The soundtrack by Jonny Greenwood will make you feel every emotion that a human is capable of feeling. The characters are complex and unpredictable. The story follows a fashion designer in 1950s London named Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis’s apparent last acting role) who falls in love with a woman he meets at a restaurant, Alma Elson (Vicky Krieps). Their often tense relationship becomes sort of a dance between the two characters. Reynolds shows emotional distance, so Alma attempts to get closer to him. Reynolds acts selfish, so Alma (spoiler alert) feeds him poisonous mushrooms. Just your typical dynamic in a heteronormative relationship! Some critics have incorrectly opined that the film promoted toxic masculinity. But they were wrong. Sorry. The film is about two very strange people in love. Sure, Reynolds is a high-maintenance man in a creative field who takes himself way too seriously. Alma could probably have an easier relationship with a different man, but she chooses to be in the relationship and makes sure that it is not only on his terms. Did I mention Lesley Manville is in it as Reynold’s sister Cyril? She gets some of the best lines. That about sums it up.
Once I declared myself a Thread Head, I began to notice that people on Film Twitter were regularly posting memes and jokes about the film. I covered some of these memes in January—a lot of them revolve around breakfast or another couple in pop culture that mirrors the dynamic between Reynolds and Alma.
PHANTOM THREAD (2017) pic.twitter.com/ABnJafnjJJ
— Ben Rosen (@ben_rosen) August 25, 2018
I’m pleased to report that, several months later, people are still sharing Phantom Thread memes. A week ago, a woman named Elizabeth created a “Phantom Thread Out Of Context” account, in the style of other Twitter accounts that post out of context scenes from TV shows and movies. The account is a Thread Head’s dream: The best scenes and the funniest lines from Phantom Thread in a continuous stream. The Twitter handle is part of Reynold’s extremely long breakfast order at the beginning of the film: @andsomesausages.
— phantom thread out of context (@andsomesausages) August 24, 2018
— phantom thread out of context (@andsomesausages) August 27, 2018
— phantom thread out of context (@andsomesausages) August 28, 2018
Elizabeth, who is 21, told me over a Twitter DM that she, too, “became obsessed” with Phantom Thread after first seeing it at a screening in December. She went back to see it two more times in theaters. “I made the account because so much of the movie is hilarious,” she said. “I’d seen other ‘out of context’ pages before, so I copied that idea. I already use memes so much from [the film] anyway, and it was just a funnier way of providing them for more people and not clogging up my own followers’ timelines with them.”
But why has Phantom Thread developed such a cult following—especially among people who create and share memes? Elizabeth thinks the film’s distinct characters are a large part of the appeal.
“All of the characters are so specific that people really relate to the dynamics between them—whether it’s Reynolds getting annoyed at Alma for chewing loudly or Cyril not wanting to put up with Reynold’s BS,” she said.
If you want to stream the film and understand its fanbase, Phantom Thread is coming to HBO on Sept. 29.