I've seen all of Paul Thomas Anderson's films, including his latest, There Will Be Blood, which I just saw tonight at the River East downtown with Joe and Cathy. And why not? Anderson's films are always technically amazing. The sound and set designs, the cinematography, the acting and the editing are all guaranteed to be superior to just about anything else playing at a cineplex, and often inspiring. They're more than just competent, they're polished with a commercial sheen that borders on the pornographic.
But There Will Be Blood is different. Maybe it's the leap back to a early 20th century setting or the venerated history of the Hollywood Western lurking about. It stretches out in its oil rich wasteland and Jonny Greenwoods score drops dollops of devilish bombast across the horizon. Daniel Day-Lewis drools, snarls and bludgeons and almost all of the time it works beautifully. But Anderson always gets in over his head. His scripts are overcome with grandeur and operatic histrionics. Something grandly sweeping, like Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea, gets in there and gums up the works. The only time this really worked for me was with Punch Drunk Love, where he almost lost the thread before giving in to a swooning, open-hearted ending. It worked. But in There Will Be Blood a sudden leap in time seems to lose the beat, its rhythm is way off. A late scene between Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis) and his son HW (Stockton Taylor) is drenched in in the same kind of dressing Anderson slathered so much of Magnolia with. I'm not feeling it.
And yet...the ending is somehow so ripe, so goofily over the top, that I'm proud to be joining others with a shout of "I drink your milkshake!"