“THERE WILL BE BLOOD” (Daniel Day-Lewis & Paul Dano)
I will say this about Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of the book “Oil!” – it is unique.
It is a memorable movie going experience, but I don’t think it’s the type of film that will be enjoyed by all. If you can become engrossed by watching a great actor at the top of his game, you will thoroughly enjoy Daniel Day-Lewis’s portrayal of Daniel Plainview in “There Will Be Blood”. But if you expect the lead character to be ‘heroic’ or someone to be admired – Plainview’s not your man.
The two lead actors however are as different as night & ‘Day’ – I’ll explain later...
The film opens in 1898 as young Daniel Plainview toils away in a self-dug cave looking for ore. He toils and he sweats alone in the middle of nowhere during the day and attempts to keep from freezing to death at night. The picture Anderson presents is of a driven man – so driven that after Plainview breaks his leg in a mishap, he crawls on his back for several miles back to civilization with his bag of precious stones.
Then Daniel discovers oil while digging and puts all of his efforts into becoming the best oil man in the country. At this point Plainview is to be admired; that’s what hooks you in – even when he turns out to be a greedy monster with a condemnation for the human race – you still remember what he went thru to get to his position of wealth.... And ‘sharing’ isn’t one of his traits...
What keeps this movie from being great is the casting of Paul Dano as Eli Sunday. Eli is a young preacher who has taken over his father’s flock; except Eli fancies himself a ‘healer’. The problem with Dano is he has no ‘fire & brimestone’ abilities; he is weak in the role – his girlish squeals of ‘Cast ye out Satan!’ are laughable. No one – not even elderly rubes in the early 1900’s would ‘flock’ to hear this ‘boy’ shriek shrilly. And since he never actually cures anyone – his congregation would dwindle down to nothing rather quickly. The capper of Eli’s first performance witnessed by Plainview is Daniel’s comment, “Nice show.” Meant in sarcasm by the character, but I took it to also be a shot at Dano’s pathetic acting.
What could have been a marvelous, Oscar front runner is relegated to a ‘maybe’ nominee simply because one actor leaves you with such a bad taste in your mouth. It’s a shame that Day-Lewis’s incredible performance will be marred forever with Dano’s lame one.
But I would encourage everyone to see this film for the completely off the wall character of Daniel Plainview – if you go with a group, trust me, you’ll have plenty to talk about after the show. His ‘adopted’ son, H. W. (who is unaware of that status) is a source of pride until an accident leaves the boy ‘imperfect’. If there’s one thing Plainview cannot tolerate it is ‘people’ who are imperfect - & by the end of the tale – that applies to everyone except Daniel Plainview.
Day-Lewis is exceptional in practically every scene; I predict they will show the scene where he is forced to confess his sins in front of Eli’s congregation (In order to use a piece of property to run his pipeline thru) prior to his accepting his Best Actor award.
I said earlier that Emile Hirsch deserves the award due to what he put himself thru physically for the role – but when a performance like this comes along, you can’t let it go unrewarded. A fantastic year for actors – both lead & supporting roles – so there will be a lot of deserving thespians having wonderful work go un-noticed by the Academy this year.
I do have a few complaints about the movie – I’m not sure if it deserves a nomination; Dano really left me dour – there were unanswered questions about Eli’s twin, Paul - & the final showdown between Plainview & Eli went a little over the top. Without giving anything away – I found the ‘Keystone Kop’ chase scene to be quite silly, thus reducing the impact of what follows. I also would have ended the ‘argument’ in a different way, but you’ll have to email me after you’ve seen the film to discover what I would have done... & I’m sure everyone in bloggerdom wants to find out what that is!