Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 2007. Paramount Vantage, Miramax, Ghoulardi Film Company. Screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson, based on the novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair. Cinematography by Robert Elswit. Produced by Paul Thomas Anderson, Daniel Lupi, JoAnne Sellar. Music by Jonny Greenwood. Production Design by Jack Fisk. Costume Design by Mark Bridges. Film Editing by Dylan Tichenor. Academy Awards 2007. Golden Globe Awards 2007.
Oil prospector Daniel Day-Lewis drums up a respectable business in drilling that blossoms into a grand opportunity when a random stranger (Paul Dano) walks into his office and tips him off to lands he knows to be rich in Texas Tea. Upon investigation, Day-Lewis discovers the claim to be true, immediately moving into the quiet, turn-of-the-century community with his young son (Dillon Freasier) and making himself a very wealthy man in a short period of time. Meanwhile, the stranger’s twin brother (also Dano), a faith-healing revivalist with a gift for spirited sermons, sees an opportunity to turn a pretty penny for his own church and engages Day-Lewis in a battle of wills that plays out throughout the rest of the film. Paul Thomas Anderson, adapting Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!, goes his usual route of avoiding typical narrative structure and instead uses the story as an opportunity to drill emotional oil (what a handy metaphor!) from its characters. No matter how much you get caught up in the Gothic drama of greed and capitalism, the complicated relationship between father and son at the centre of the film is where it gets its beating heart. Not all audiences members will warm up to the eccentric nature of the film or its humour (“I’m your brother…from another mother”), or its methodical pacing for that matter, but it is an astonishing, original piece no matter how you slice it. Day-Lewis chews the scenery like nobody’s business, the role a perfect fit for his larger-than-life style, while Dano isn’t quite strong enough to match his overwhelming co-star.