“Kiss me, my girl, before I’m sick” is the new “You complete me.”
While Paul Thomas Anderson’s lush period drama Phantom Thread may only have taken home one prize at the Academy Awards this past weekend, the film holds the greater honor of being the Internet’s most unlikely darling. It’s been called “the most surprising love story of the year” by Vanity Fair, and Vulture even mocked up Valentines featuring quotes from the film. So it only seemed like a matter of time before someone recut the trailer to make it look like a fluffy, old-school romantic comedy — which, arguably, it really is.
A recent video by Nelson Carvajal casts the pathologically fussy dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) as a lovably grumpy bachelor, a well-off professional who nevertheless remains listless and unfulfilled because he just hasn’t found The One yet — that is, until he meets-cute with his waitress turned muse Alma (Vicky Krieps) when she trips over herself in a restaurant and his life turns upside down. “But wait,” viewers might ask. “Isn’t that literally just what happens in Phantom Thread?”
Indeed, it is — unlike with most trailer remixes or mashups, Carvajal doesn’t really have to introduce any new plot elements or significantly alter the narrative in order to imagine Phantom Thread as a charmingly predictable retro rom-com (aside from replacing Jonny Greenwood’s haunting score with Pete Townshend’s jaunty, quintessentially ’80s jam “Let My Love Open The Door”). On its face, it’s simply another story about an well-off but disaffected man who takes an ingénue under his wing and finds himself transformed by her, the kind of romance trope that’s been employed by films from My Fair Lady to Pretty Woman.
The video does omit the film’s most pitch-black elements of the couple’s dysfunction. Yet those aspects still map onto the familiar three-act rom-com structure of the inevitable estrangement/breakup followed by a swooning reconciliation, when two flawed people are forced to realize that they are not only happiest with each other, but that they make each other unequivocally better. Just like how Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) realizes that spending time with Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) has made him genuinely happier and more empathetic, so Reynolds realizes that he enjoys how Alma’s actions make him a better, more tolerable man. He needs her in order to show him how to be vulnerable; she needs him in order to become a truly self-possessed star. Perhaps that’s why Phantom Thread has found such an unexpectedly viral audience — for all its chilly aesthetic perfection and hints of dread, it also ultimately, earnestly believes in love’s transformative power.
Watch the fake trailer below to see Reynolds and Alma fall for each other in delightfully ’80s detail, complete with VHS tracking.