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Paul Thomas Anderson: more of the same

After seeing Boogie Nights and Magnolia I decided not to see movies from Paul Thomas Anderson again. I found both movies hard to watch for one simple reason: the writer/director hates his characters and revels in seeing them suffer for no apparent reason. It's really hard to watch a film where the characters go through bad stuff when you don't care about them at all. And you can't care for them, because the director does not care for them. It all becomes a spectacle of suffering for suffering's sake. I don't have time for that.

But I thought "There Will be Blood" would be different. It has good reviews (for some reason all his movies do), it has Daniel Day Lewis (always good) and to top it off, a music score by Jonny Greenwood. So, we went to see it.

What we found was more of the same. No love for any of the characters. The insane-for-no-reason oil man, the minister, the son, the brother... you can't get attached to any of these characters. And therefore, when they start suffering, it feels pointless again.

The film was interesting for the first hour or so, as it explores the rough life of early oil explorers and the mechanics of finding oil, the real estate dealings, etc. After that, the movie focuses on the madness of the main characters and it becomes self indulgent with intimate scenes that end up just boring because you don't care about the characters at all. The level of intensity goes out of proportion, and while that's good for winning an Oscar (think Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin), it feels contrived in this story.

The movie is too long (by 45 minutes to an hour) and by that time you've forgotten the interesting first hour. It would have helped to do the Magnolia trick of ending a very painful film with a whimsical final segment (raining frogs). No such luck in this one.

For me it all comes down to my main criticism: the director hates his characters and enjoys seeing them suffer for no apparent reason. This time I've learned the lesson: no more PTA for me.


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