Kythereia, you did a very good job of summarizing so I don’t want to sound like I’m nitpicking what you said. I’m just expounding. If he’s not going to see it anyway more details will just fill in the blanks. astroboy14 may not be interested in these extra details, but it does explain more about the confrontation.
Kythereia: The line comes in the middle of a bizarre, unhinged, truly spectacular rant by Daniel Plainview. He’s become a bitter old recluse (to say the least) after his son leaves him, and Eli Sunday (the preacher played by Paul Dano, who’s been set up as his personal nemesis the whole time) has showed up begging for money; he offers a patch of oil land Plainview has been hankering after nearly the whole second half of the movie.
[spoiler]Plainview could have had that land earlier but he blew off the owner (Bandy) when he thought the owner was just holding out for more money. Plainview bought up all the land surrounding Bandy’s tract. Later, when he realized he needed Bandy’s land, not for the oil but to build a pipeline to transport his oil, he has to bend to Bandy’s will to get Bandy to say ok. What Bandy, a deeply religious man, wants is for Plainview to “be washed in the blood of Christ” and he has to do it in Eli Sunday’s church (The Church of the Third Revelation) or no deal. Eli and Plainview had been butting heads for ages, but Plainview really needed the pipeline, so be it. Also, Bandy was subtly blackmailing Plainview because Plainview had just killed a man and Bandy knew about it. Wash in that blood, by god, or go to jail. Plus no pipeline.
Bandy’s quite a character. He doesn’t care that Plainview has killed a man, just so long as Plainview is “saved.” I’m sure the money doesn’t hurt either. Bandy’s not going to get any money at all if Plainview is sitting in jail.[/spoiler]
Kythereia: Plainview badgers him and hounds him and beats him over the head into declaring that there is no God and that “I am a false prophet”, raving in his face,
[spoiler]The final confrontation has a history behind it. The last time these two had met (other than a brief sighting as Eli was leaving to go make a name for himself in the evangelist business), Eli Sunday had slapped and humiliated Plainview at the church service where Plainview was being, uh, “baptised” to satisfy Bandy. Eli was very much enjoying slapping around Plainview in a “religious fervor.” Because of Bandy’s request and his need for the pipeline across Bandy’s property (not to mention the blackmail), Plainview was in a situation where he had to take what Eli was dishing out without complaint, otherwise, Eli never could have gotten away with his treatment of Plainview.
The reason Eli was enjoying slapping Plainview was because it was in retaliation for an earlier beat-down by Plainview, and the fact that Plainview owed Eli money. The earlier beat-down of Eli by Plainview was prompted because Eli claimed to be a “healer” and yet didn’t even try to heal Plainview’s young son, injured after a well blew. Plainview thought that Eli was a faker, only after money and the worship of his congregation. At the baptism church service, when Plainview was before him, having to take whatever Eli wanted to dish out, it must have been like Christmas to Eli.
All that to explain that this final confrontation was a long time coming. [/spoiler]
Kythereia: It’s in the middle of a very, very strange scene
[spoiler]Plainview had started losing his mind many many years before, or that is, had started losing the ability to hide the fact that he was losing his mind. I also like how Dio put it. He didn’t go mad throughout the film, he was slowly revealed to BE mad. Certain events escalated the process, and as he made more money he didn’t have as much of an incentive to hide it.
Earlier that evening (the evening of the “milkshake” confrontation), Plainview had found out that his now grown son was going to start an oil business in competition with him. A combination of being halfway insane, drunk, hating any competition and especially hating that his own son would compete against him rather than continue to be part of the family business, prompted Plainview to say a lot of hurtful, nasty and extremely bridge-burning things to his son, driving him away, probably forever.
After his son left, Plainview continued to get drunk and went down into his private bowling alley, where he passed out while eating dinner. Then Eli comes and wakes him up. Upon awakening, Plainview drinks whiskey from a flask and then pure moonshine while talking to Eli. So, he’s drunk out of his mind, crazy out of his mind, heartbroken/furious about the earlier confrontation with his son, and then this twerp Eli, whose last interaction consisted of slapping the shit out of Plainview, has the nerve to come to him begging for money, and even lies about why he’s there at first. [/spoiler]
Kythereia: that a lot of viewers are uncomfortable with–some provoked into nervous laughter–and so I guess it serves as the hallmark of the ‘weirdness’ of the whole movie. YMMV.
To me, most of the whole last portion is hilarious. It’s very very darkly comical, and meant to be. Well, it’s an odd blend of black comedy, sadness and horror. The humor doesn’t come out of nowhere though. There are several scenes earlier in the movie that are blackly comical, like the baptism scene. It’s only in the next to the last scene of the film when things turn deadly serious again.
Astroboy14, too bad you’ve already made up your mind about seeing it while it’s playing. It really should be seen in the theater, it’s going to become the classic of this decade that people will look back on and marvel about (and envy those who saw it first-run). But, since you unfortunately say you’re not going to see this in the theater, [spoiler]here is the milkshake scene.
In fact, most of the scenes I’ve described are on YouTube. I maintain a There Will Be Blood links page with links to several scenes in the movie, so you can, if you wish, see them in order.[/spoiler]