A hypothetical win for Phantom Thread would find a lot of superficial company in the list of past Best Picture winners. Fancy costumes and high-falutin’ accents are frequent academy charmers. But when it comes time to find a dance partner at the Best Picture Winner Reunion, there’s only one film Thread would nonchalantly approach and offer a hand and a tender frown.
My Fair Lady also has a British woman escorted into high society by a man and, naturally, theirs is a relationship complicated by class and by temperament. It’s hard to imagine Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) going to the depths that Alma (Vicky Krieps) plumbs in an effort to keep her relationship in line. While both characters face difficulty navigating their new lots in life and both ultimately take a degree of control over their own station, Thread soaks Lady‘s playful tensions and sears them with a tone of infatuation that creates a relationship more poisonous than the one in Lady, and yet possibly a stronger one.
Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) confesses he’s grown accustomed to her face. Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) has not only grown accustomed to her face, but her reactions to his face, his temperament, his distractions. One would think the 1964 musical would end with less ambiguity, but after Thread appears to be a tale of remaking your partner in a more suitable image – with the effort flowing equally between man and woman – it ends up with the more fragile and richer relationship. Isn’t that loverly?