Monday, August 04, 2008

There Will Be Blood: Grade B

There Will Be Blood (2007)
Daniel Day Lewis, Paul Dano. Writer (screenplay) & director: Paul Thomas Anderson.

There is no blood. This mis-titled movie is about oil, or rather about one particular oilman (Lewis) in the early years of 20th century California. He is a psychopathic, greedy egomaniac who buys farms and drills them for oil, along the way alienating everyone he meets. He shoots a man who pretends to be his long lost half brother, threatens others, beats up still others. He is humiliated by, and finally humiliates in return, a country preacher (Dano). The preacher's character is just as crazy and self-obsessed as the oilman's but Dano gives a fascinating rendition of a complex person who has some inner life, unlike Lewis' character. Finally the oilman retires wealthy, lonely, still angry, and unenlightened. There is no plot, and little dramatic tension. The oilman’s character never changes, so this 2.5 hour film is merely a depiction of early oil exploration in California. Its virtues are visual, the wide open spaces, the men sweating to build and operate wooden derricks. (Women are nonentities in this film). The opening 10 minute mini-drama is accomplished without any dialog and is the best part of the movie.

Lewis’ acting is widely acclaimed (won best actor), but I thought it was just adequate. Since his character is psychopathically unpredictable, who can tell if the acting is good or not? The dialog for all characters was stilted, strangely formal. No contractions are used and everyone says “yes,” never “yup” or “yeh.” There were numerous linguistic anachronisms as well. The music, rich, varied, and full orchestra, was exceptionally beautiful, but completely disconnected from the rest of the movie, as if a high-dollar composer was hired to show his or her stuff, without having read the screenplay. This movie has been vastly overrated, yet it is worth seeing, for the good scenery, sets, costumes, and plausible historical description.

1 comment:

  1. You're comments about the score are interesting. It was composed by Johnny Greenwood, the lead guitarist of Radiohead. He didn't read the script, or see any parts of the movie before writing the music.