May contain some “soft” spoilers.
I must have been in another headspace for the first decade of the new millennium. I don’t remember seeing or even hearing about this film, even though it has been hailed as one of the great movies of the 21st century and Daniel Day-Lewis received numerous awards for his fantastic performance.
So when I happened to watch it through Pluto.tv, I was pleasantly surprised. The ads started to bug me, though. So I borrowed it from our library and enjoyed it without interruptions—err at least, pausing it when I wanted as opposed to running out during ads to get drinks, etc.
There Will Be Blood is the story of an oilman at the turn of the 20th century. It spoke to me on several levels. Partly because my great-grandparents had a French Canadian barn builder erect a rough-hewn summer home at Georgian Bay around 1900 which became our family cottage. So it’s an easy jump for me back a hundred years or so because I grew up surrounded by that ambiance every summer since I was a baby until my mid-to-late forties, at which time we sadly lost the place.
But no one can take memories away. Long-term memories usually are the last to go and I have many.
So on to the film.
Well, it’s a story of an unscrupulous but not totally amoral oilman, Daniel Plainview, who will do just about anything to get what he wants. It’s also a story about the phony morality of fast-buck preachers, embodied by the character Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) who comes into conflict with Plainview. And then there’s Plainview’s son, H. W., who adds another dimension to the film, fleshing out Daniel’s character and adding a bit of ambiguity to further illustrate that pops is a habitual liar. Add to that an alleged half-brother appearing out of nowhere, and we have sufficient complexity for a really good story.
I was going to call this a “sleeper” film because I’d never heard about it. But clearly, that is wrong. If by chance you haven’t seen it, check it out. Apparently, men like it more than women, although that could just be hearsay. True, mature women don’t figure prominently as movers and shakers in the film but that’s by and large how things were back then. So why rewrite history to please the PC crowd? To me, that’s adding insult to injury by pretending things were rosy and fair when they were not.
As for sexism, one of the few moments where Plainview shines is when he favors a young girl, Mary Sunday (who’s been beaten by her father) over the self-absorbed Eli who wants to be highlighted at the blessing of an oil rig. So those who say this film is sexist maybe should take another look.