Thursday, July 19, 2018

There Will Be Boredom!

Visually stunning establishing shots and mundane dialogue accidentally mistaken for storytelling.

Just because you have Daniel Day-Lewis in your movie does not mean that you can forego everything else, namely, - an equally stunning supporting cast, character development, a complete, well-developed story, and last but not least, - editing. If your going to make what is essentially a 3 hour movie, you'd better have some compelling reasons for doing it. Day-Lewis in the title role is a compelling reason, but he can't do it alone, and that is exactly where director and writer Paul Thomas Anderson leaves him, - stranded and alone on the screen with mediocre dialogue, a still-born story, and semi-anonymous, cardboard cut-out supporting characters.

If Day-Lewis would have said - "This is my son H.W." - one more time, I would have walked out right there and then. Anderson beats us over the head with establishing dialogue and scenes(men working an oil rig and the attendant accoutrement,- a rope going up and down, up and down;anonymous characters gathered around Day-Lewis in various turn-of -the-century costumes and scenes), and must think that its synonymous with storytelling.

There Will Be Blood, a turn-of-the-century period piece loosely based on the 1927 novel "Oil" by Upton Sinclair, is all beginning and ending, with no middle to flesh out the story and characters. Paul Dano(Little Miss Sunshine) delivers a respectable performance as a young, bible-thumping preacher hellbent on ecclisiastical bombast and a share of the oil profits, but his character falls flat on the screen due to a meandering storyline and anemic dialogue. And then, all of a sudden, seemingly without preface or provocation, the hard-working, slightly shifty, orphan-adopting, loving father Daniel Plainview - so competently portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis - becomes a homicidal maniac. What? At this point in the story (Plainview - in a bizarre emotional non-sequitor - maniacally threatens to murder an oil company representative who has generously offered to buy him out because he suggested that Plainview might enjoy spending more time with his 'family'), we begin to approach the absurd. It gets worse with dialogue like, ",....from another mother...", - a phrase so charged with common currency that it fatally threatens our suspension of disbelief for this turn-of-the-century piece.

The score, although interesting and well done by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, seems somewhat overwrought, in that it has to cover up for so much missing dialogue, story, and suspense. Anderson fatally undermines this effort with an all-too apparent laziness in the essentials, - believable characters, compelling dialogue, and a story that weaves them together seamlessly. Ultimately, we end up learning too little about the characters to actually understand or care what happens to them.

About the Writer

m.zeno is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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1 comments on There Will Be Boredom!

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By M.J. Hamada on February 09, 2008 at 05:24 pm

Thanks for your review and perspective.  I'm of the opposite opinion, disagreeing with nearly every point you make.  I thoroughly enjoyed this character study and understood all of Plainview's actions.  Yes, the film is predictable (even the title suggests the final scene), and it could be subtitled The Rise and Fall of..., yet I had no problem with its predictability, just as I have no problem with the predictability of Citizen Kane.  I mention that film because there are similarities between the two: There Will Be Blood is like a Citizen Kane of the oil fields.  Blood also recalls Kubrick, especially in that final scene.

Striking film.

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