There Will Be Blood: The Late-to-the-Party Review


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.

In a quick backup idea, we opted for There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson’s turn-of-the-century capitalist epic loosely based on muckraker icon Upton Sinclair‘s Oil! In a word: hmm.

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:

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2 Responses to “There Will Be Blood: The Late-to-the-Party Review”

  1. I pretty much agree. I was expected a much more universal tale of capitalism and greed in America, instead of a tale of one man.

    Kind of want to read Oil, though.

  2. finally got to see the infamous There Will Be Blood… Daniel-Day Lewis’ performance was top-notch. He takes well to the overbearing, violent father-figure role — he also did this in Gangs of New York.

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