name another person with two p.t. anderson films in his/her top 25 and i’ll concede that they might be a bigger fan of his work than i. i haven’t met such a person, though, so forgive me if i say that i’m the biggest p.t. anderson fan i’ve ever met.
perhaps it’s self-delusion or fantastic hubris, but i think critics and “experts” are strictly for the birds. in everything from music and film to food and sports i think experts are bullshit artists, idiots, incompetent morons who lack taste, fore-sight, courage, and the tell it like it is spirit that made me look up to my grandfather so much. with “there will be blood” the so-called experts are 8-10 years behind the curve in calling this “breathtaking,” (wash. post) a “masterpiece,” (onion), “The Great American Movie” (la weekly), #80 of all-time (imdb.com voters), the best character study in film since citizen kane (film threat), etc. those accolades weren’t meant for this film as much as they were meant for boogie nights, or p.t. anderson’s true masterpiece, and the film that even he says he will not likely top: magnolia.
this film isn’t epic or masterful, it’s actually fairly uninspired and hollow and that’s something i never thought i’d say about a film directed by someone i (still) consider one of the few great active directors of my generation. the single biggest thing that makes this true is its lack of character development, which is unfortunate considering the acting talent and surprising considering the writing/directing talent of anderson. what’s more is that the film doesn’t have the hope or moral center that his previous films have had. nor does it have the sympathetic protagonist or sense of purpose that his other works have had. no, this is a dark film for dark times, but it’s dark without purpose. when daniel day-lewis verbally rips apart his son and, later, his adversary it doesn’t feel heart-wrenching or triumphant, it feels like nothing. those around me laughed, i waited for something real to happen. some around me may have cried, i sat and waited to feel. nothing.
the film’s opening 30 minutes had me completely, the following two hours only had me in jerks and spurts.
there’s something about the names in the film that probably has some significance, but i couldn’t decipher it. the two main characters (dano and day-lewis) are named paul (at one point anyway, later he’s named eli) and daniel, as are the people who play them. there’s also the father who is named abel, but i didn’t see a cain and the father didn’t have much significance so…? then there’s his son (h.w.) and the businessman who tells him to retire a wealthy man and take care of his son, this man’s name is h.m. tilford. of course there’s also the protagonist – daniel plainview whose motive are never in plainview and is hardly ever easy to get a true hold of.
it does remind me a bit of citizen kane and i’ve heard this comparison made on the radio advertisements. it’s not like citizen kane in terms of quality or putting a filmmaker on the map or anything like that. rather it’s a portrait of a great man who is a tragic figure, at least that’s the thought. it’s really about a man whose kingdom is great and could be a tragic figure if we gave a damn. ebert puts it best: “”There Will Be Blood” is no “Kane” however. Plainview lacks a “Rosebud.” He regrets nothing, misses nothing, pities nothing, and when he falls down a mine shaft and cruelly breaks his leg, he hauls himself back up to the top and starts again.” the film never gives us the young kane, it never gives us michael corleone before he is forced to take over the family business. those are the things that make a character like this so tragic and touching. those glimpses of innocence (and thus innocence lost) are what give films like citizen kane and the godfather the labels “breathtaking,” “epic,” and “masterpiece” that the so-called experts have sloppily lumped onto this film. an epic without those glimpses and that contrast of character, that change in time, is like a p.t. anderson film without heart. oh, wait, that’s exactly what this is. color me depressed.Watched in theater