Sunday, February 24, 2008
Friday Movie Review (quite late)
Let's get the good stuff out of the way. Daniel Day-Lewis is just terrific and is a shoe-in for Best Actor tonight (see post on Oscar picks). The costumes are really good. The set, that is, everything not human the camera shows is about perfect. Uh... Oh, it didn't have Bill Macy in it. I like him but he's just a little overexposed lately.
OK now to the stuff that either disappointed or made me just not enjoy my time in the dark. I didn't get the point of the picture. That's a pretty big problem from the start. OK it's a saga, a family history (with no family) of a self described oil man in the early 20th Century (the 1898 part showed him a silver miner). That's about all it is. There are other characters of course and some sort of psychological story arc but rather than be engaging and mysterious it was just a mess. Here are some plot spoilers for the rest of the paragraph. Why not let Eli give the blessing of the well? Is there anything in Day-Lewis' character which accounts for that gratuitous piece of meanness? None shown. Why send the injured 'son' away and in such a terrible manner? Why kill Eli? He's humiliated him by then, he could say no money for what you did to me in the Church of the 3rd Revelation and that would be sufficient punishment. Why? Not answered, no psychological resonance shown, off-putting non-linear connection there not to challenge you or to woo you into caring for the characters. Just there by artistic fiat. And director Anderson shows that he can show a psychologically profound turn of events with the faux brother Henry. As an aside, Henry is played by Kevin O'Connor, a funny looking actor who gives another good performance as a craven side kick (as he did in most of his movies, eg., Beni in The Mummy, Tooch in Deep Rising and Igor in Van Helsing). Henry is only pretending to be Day-Lewis' brother but Day-Lewis buys into it (and confides his misanthropy and anger control problems) and makes Henry his second (since the 'son' is away) but when Henry doesn't recognize the Peachtree Dance reference, you actually watch a cold fury build in Day-Lewis and his subsequent murder of Henry makes perfect sense. Show us you can do a thing, then refuse to do it again, and you disappoint the audience, or at least a portion of them.
It just hit me that Day-Lewis is a Londoner, yet his Wisconsin/Great Plains/California accent sounds pretty good to me. They showed a preview of The Other Boleyn Girl before the film, with Americans Scarlett Johansson as Mary and usually good Natalie Portman as Anne, and I had to ask if it was set in England after all, as neither actress had any perceptible English accent. Just an observation.
There Will Be Blood is a dark, nihilistic, downer of a movie without catharsis. (It's much like No Country for Old Men in spirit). It doesn't leave you as despairing and proto-suicidal as Before the Devil Knows You're Dead or even The Savages, but it is in no way fun. It's box office has been no day at the beach either (less than $33 million--Alvin and the freakin' Chipmonks made 7 times that, for Pete's sake). Show us nothing but depressing movies with no moral or psychological pay off and we'll stop coming to the movies and stop watching the Oscars showering these bleak Weltanshauungs with extravagant and undeserved praise. It doesn't have to be all comedy and Hollywood ending, but enough of the dark nihilistic downers already. Sheesh.