Even Thicker Blood: Mary Bronstein's Special Guest Commentary

by tully
December 13, 2007 7:46 AM
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Before I head to Greenpoint to watch edited footage of Mary Bronstein's YEAST for the very first time (I think that's still a tentative title, but I really want it to stick!), I thought I would publish her reaction to THERE WILL BE BLOOD.

I think this opinion is incredibly valid and deserves to be posted for the world to read. While my memory of the film has helped to soften the initial blow I felt while watching the last chapter, reading Mary's take reminded me that it might very well be okay to stick with my first-time opinion. She says things that I felt but am too stupid to express with my own puny brain. Thank you, Mary.

One important final note! For the record, Mary didn't write this with the intention of getting it published, but I did get her blessing to do just that, so here it goes:

re: Blood...I think I have processed all my thoughts. My thoughts regarding the ending are this: I do not think, as Karina suggested, that PTA intended for this scene to be funny, or for us to be laughing at or with this character all along (besides of course the sparse moments of humor thrown in). From what he was saying in his Q&A, he did not see humor in this story. This was a serious and tragic story that he was very emotionally involved in, as was DDL. DDL certainly did not seem to be saying he was playing the character as someone to be laughed at. AND if you laughed at this character he would surely find a way to kill you. That being said, I think that the weird turn at the end was an accident. A mistake. In other words, it wasn't supposed to, but it came out bad. I am tired of no one ever wanting to admit that something can just come out bad. PTA is not perfect. Just because something is weird doesn't mean there is something to "get," that it was meaningful in and of itself. He tried something with the end and it was a disaster. The main problem for me was, we didn't get to know the son at all, we didn't see him grow up, we don't know what he's like as an adult, and so...why should I be invested in his father going crazy on him? Sure, it resonates simply because the things he says are awful, but it is a mistake to throw in a completely different actor than we have been used to seeing and expecting us to connect. Certainly, if he had a similar confrontation with a younger aged son, we would be more in it. And then there is the problem with the acting. Sorry, people might stone me to death for this, but, DDL didn't pull off old and didn't pull off crazy. Just didn't. It didn't work. He tried, though. The rest of his performance was almost flawless, though. So...what we have here is a fabulous movie, an AWESOME movie that took a misstep at the end. And no one who considers themselves a cinemaniac will ever admit it! ARGH. I believe that what we were MEANT to get out of the ending is that the entire movie has been a character study about a man going crazy due to his incredible appetite for ambition, riches and power, not to mention personal shame about his son. So, he ends up alone in a giant empty house old and crazy. What was it all for? What good did it do him? INSTEAD we end up with later era Pacino pretending to be an old man talking about giant milkshake straws!!!!! That's my two cents. I am pretty sure no one agrees with me. I'd like to poll all the people riotously laughing in the theater.

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More: Film in General


  • tully | December 15, 2007 11:11 AMReply

    this is an unwinnable discussion. everyone has their opinion. i'll simply say that for me, personally, i don't think that film deserved a 'funny' climax, especially when taking into account what had preceded it. if anything, i wish it had gotten 100% dramatic. but that's just my own incredibly subjective feeling. maybe that would have been an even worse decision. whatever. nobody's right, nobody's wrong, everybody's right, everybody's wrong, i'm gonna stop talking about this now...

  • craig zobel | December 15, 2007 4:53 AMReply

    It's not very fair to dismiss liking the last scene as something that only "cinemaniacs" who can't admit that PTA could do something wrong would say. I am happy to say that I can trash talk things in Boogie Nights or Magnolia easily. I liked that scene in There Will Be Blood. I think that it was the logical place to go at that point in the movie. I think it's sucky to dismiss my liking it as being the blind devotion of a alcolyte of Paul Thomas Anderson. I think it strange that all these debates keep including whether people in the audience were laughing. 'Course they were it was funny. Things can be humorous and still fundementally dramatic. I wasn't aware of the audience though. I was into the movie.

  • tully | December 14, 2007 10:34 AMReply

    whoever tracks down an Academy screener can feel free to invite me over to watch it!

  • Karina | December 14, 2007 7:06 AMReply

    When I say that I think it's supposed to be funny, I definitely don't mean "comic romp." I don't know ... I'm having a really hard time articulating the way I see the comedy and the tragedy working together. I maintain that there are scenes (including the final scene) where I think PTA wants you to laugh, but not in a lighthearted way AT ALL. I think I need to see it again in order to sort it out, though--maybe several times. Are there any Academy screeners floating around?

  • tully | December 14, 2007 4:54 AMReply

    god, i wish that theater hadn't been laughing like they were watching a comic romp. maybe it was nervous laughter, but it didn't feel that way to me. it disgusted and disappointed me.

  • Filmbrain | December 14, 2007 3:29 AMReply

    And no one who considers themselves a cinemaniac will ever admit it!

    Mary --

    First off, I agree with you that the ending isn't meant to be funny.

    To me, the final segment wasn't about old and crazy, but rather the next stage in Plainview's transformation into a monster. That shot of him lying on the bowling lane -- the position he's in, the sounds coming out of him -- he's like a slumbering Kong.

    All Plainview wanted was to be rich enough to never have to be near people again. The banishment of his son was the final step. (Well, the next to last step before he claims he's "finished".)

    I think what is so startling about that last sequence is how it's the first time we see Plainview in our world -- i.e., not in the bowels of the earth, or covered in oil in a wooden shack on the plains, etc.

    That it didn't work for you is all well and good. I just don't think you can say it's a misstep any more than I can say it's one of the greatest final scenes in the history of cinema.

    Still, the idea of polling people sounds great.

  • mary | December 13, 2007 8:24 AMReply

    do not tar and feather me!