This Saturday my amigo Andre and I decided to see Be Kind Rewind at the Landmark E Street Theater in fabulous Washington, D.C. We got there and they were down to one ticket. Thus ends my tale.
My Slate D.C. coworker Tim Noah hit the nail on the head when he noted that the film divides into two halves: a first half that sets up the nerve-jangling expectation that this film will have some sort of awesome, morally complex message about business and religion in America, and a “WTF” second half that abandons that conceit and decides to concentrate on making Daniel Plainview into an unredeemable psycho. Andre and I both left the final scene — it’s really thrown in there out of left field — wondering what the hell just happened, and I think this was a common reaction among the other theatergoers present.
There was so much about this movie that was great: the Oscar committee should cancel the Best Actor award each year that Daniel Day-Lewis does a movie and just hand him the statue. (He has done a great deal to associate mustaches with bad-assedness in his past two roles.) The musical score annoyed the hell out of me with its loudness and horror-movie tone, but after I left I thought back on it and realized that the music really worked. PTA also did a phat job of making this a period piece, and the sweeping shots of the empty California landscape — though the movie was actually filmed in Texas — really established the sense of isolation and hardscrabble individualism reflected in Plainview’s life. Lots of reviewers have praised the dialogue-free first 20 minutes, and that’s warranted because it was amazing.
The supporting cast was decent — guy who played Plainview’s brother, good; kid who played H.W. Plainview, quite good; vow-of-silence dude from Little Miss Sunshine who played the crazy preacher, not convincing at all in conveying religious fervor. But I just can’t get past the letdown that was the movie’s lack of message. Boogie Nights and Magnolia both had a lot to say about the importance of being genuinely connected to others, and while TWBB touched on that a little bit, it just didn’t deliver enough.
Sorry, PTA: I love your stuff, but not as much this time. Three phats out of five: