By now you’ve heard the “I drink your milkshake” dialogue from There Will Be Blood. By now you know this means that violently determined early 1900s California oilman Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) will “drink your milkshake” by taking what you have, right out from under your nose (in his case, milkshakes being analogous to buried oil).
Now know this: There Will Be Blood wants to drink your milkshake, the analogy in this case being your hard-earned money. It wants to take an absurd 92 per cent favorable reviews (critics’ herding instincts can be more single-minded than the most forgiving of geeky fans) and the Oscar hullaballoo which produced two (count ’em) awards (for cinematography, and Day-Lewis as best actor) and the alleged great track record of director Paul Thomas Anderson, and with that it wants to drink your milkshake. It wants to take your money, via DVD purchase or rental, for what’s one of the most wildly overrated films in recent memory.
But then, look at this past Oscar season. Pathetic. News bulletin: The movie industry is tanking, and even ostensibly artful films launched as Oscar bait aren’t immune to its doldrums. Yet something has to win best picture or best actor, if only by default. Trouble is, Anderson is no Stanley Kubrick or Francis Coppola or Marty Scorsese. He’s just another pretentious young director who equates violence and sordidness with art, and who tells a tale that should fill one hour yet stretches out over almost three. Epic, schmepic.
The chief problem is that Blood makes everything out of its central character, but does almost nothing to truly flesh him out. Where did this man come from? What are his inner demons, and how’d they get there? Why is he murderously violent and contemptuous of most human beings, but fiercely protective of his son? Why is he never arrested? None of this is explained or addressed. It’s just a given. He’s a mean bastard. There — satisfied? Well, no.
Look, if you feel you’ve simply got to have a fix — of snooty fare ordained by Oscar, of pained but powerful performances — be my guest. Give up your milkshake and try this out. Day-Lewis is good, all right, and I suppose he deserved his Oscar in a thin field. But lockstep approval from 92 per cent of reviewers? Gimmeabreak. Someone’s been drinking the Kool-Aid, not just milkshakes.