Year Released: 2007
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Dillon Freasier
(R, 158 min.)
"It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail." Gore Vidal
Though I can’t quite echo the hyperbolic praise lavished on this film, it is, nevertheless, a superb character study that is powerful, well crafted, and subtle. The amoral misanthrope at its center is complex, yet as elemental as the harsh landscape that cradles his beloved black gold.
There Will Be Blood is not the anti-capitalist polemic I had expected, and Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is no cardboard villain, but rather a fearless and scrappy force of nature. His real nature emerges slowly, like the oil that oozes from its crust of earth. Early on Plainview shows his courage as he alone works his mineral shaft, setting the blast that blows just seconds after he has climbed out. The few chunks of gold he garners from the pit, along with a broken leg, set him up in the oil business. Covered in oil, mucking at the bottom of a well, lugging buckets of mire from the bowels of the earth, he is most likeable when he is part of the elements and the toil. The more he becomes successful and distant from the actual labor, the more he deteriorates.
His unctuous voice, modulated and patronizing with an eccentric clipped diction that is somewhat irritating, lulls the land-poor settlers to lease him their property on the cheap. More like an groveling politician than a robber oil baron, Plainview issues empty promises with a glib tongue. He is, of course, like all political animals, a family man, with little HW Plainview (Dillon Freasier) standing obediently beside him as he cajoles the masses with talk of building schools and irrigation systems for their fields.
Like the “ocean of oil” beneath his feet, we have quite a bit beneath the surface in There Will Be Blood as well. And often, the audience is as ignorant of it as the duped locals, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is, in fact, probably a shrewd ploy to keep us a bit off balance, to keep the true motivations of Plainview shrouded in mystery. The closest he ever comes to an explanation for himself is Plainview’s conversation with Henry ( Kevin O’Connor) the long lost "half brother" who turns up on his doorstep. He dislikes people, in fact, cannot stand them, and his desperation to succeed is mainly to provide him a solitary respite from them. Nor can he stand for anyone to best him.
This last preference finally helps explain his sparring competition with the local charismatic young preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano). With greasy hair parted down the middle that frames an insipid face residing on a narrow chested frame, Eli Sunday presents the antithesis to Plainview’s chiseled features, square jaw and athletic build. Yet, behind the pulpit, the little dweeb comes alive, manipulating his listeners just as effectively as the oilman does his. And while there exists a certain grudging respect on Plainview’s part as he witnesses Eli expertly “cast the devil” from an old woman, he is not about accede to the gangly preacher’s request to bless his well.
However, instead of refusing the bid, Plainview allocates a time, and then, with Eli awaiting his opening, Plainview offers the blessing himself. While he takes the slight with a smile, Eli will later enact a costly revenge, one that sets certain events in motion than cannot be stopped.
The second relationship that is enigmatically revealing is that of Plainview with HW, who the audience knows is really the offspring of a coworker killed in a drilling accident. Certainly the sweet-faced boy is an excellent prop as Plainview describes with warmth his “family business,” but his affection for the boy seems genuine and fatherly. However, his reaction when the boy is injured reminds us of the animal kingdom where unsoundness in offspring is shunned and even worse, terminated.
The final scene fulfills the title’s promise with a swift brutality that is as original as it is violent, a Cohen brothers touch that is not soon to be forgotten.
Poor though they are, the Sunday family is rich with goat milk, since the scrubby family ranch isn’t much good for anything except raising the little creatures. That is, until the black bubbly erupts after an earthquake.
But they shouldn’t demean the goats’ wonderful dairy products -- neither the milk nor the cheese, as both are lower in calories and easier to digest than the bovine variety.
Here is a wonderful recipe for delicious Bite Sized Goat Cheese and California Walnut Cheesecakes, not the sweet dessert kind, but rather zesty appetizers.
Bite Sized Walnut Cheesecakes
(These are not the dessert variety of sweet cheesecakes, but rather zesty appetizers.)
- 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup finely ground California walnuts, plus 9 California walnut pieces for garnish
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 5 ounces soft goat cheese such as Montrachet
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, plus additional chives for garnish
- 1 teaspoon finely diced red bell pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 F and butter 18 muffin tins (2 tablespoons each). In a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs, ground California walnuts, the melted butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and stir until thoroughly combined. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of the walnut mixture into each mold and press down into the bottom of the molds.
With an electric mixer beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add the goat cheese and beat until creamy. Add the egg and beat until well combined. Add the chives, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Divide the goat cheese mixture between the molds and smooth the tops. Set a walnut piece on top of nine of the cheesecakes. Top the remaining cheesecakes with the diced red peppers. Bake until puffed, about 15 minutes. Let the cheesecakes cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold. Garnish with chives and serve warm.
Recipe Source: The Food Netwoork