Paul Thomas Anderson is responsible for some of the greatest movies of the last fifteen years; Boogie Nights, Magnolia and There Will Be Blood are all certified masterpieces, and arguments can be made for the lesser known Hard Eight or the misunderstood Punch-Drunk Love. But as his career moves forward into higher and higher levels of critical praise, his movies have become denser, more poetic and seem less aimed towards movie fans and more towards Paul Thomas Anderson movie fans.
With that in mind, we have PTA's latest movie - The Master - and the furore surrounding it as to whether it is about the origins of Scientology or not. But this has very little to do with what The Master is actually about; science Vs religion, father-son relationships, and two men trying to find their place in the world. Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) has just come home from WWII, and is a spring loaded trap of a man; the son of a drunk father and a mentally ill mother, constantly on the run from his own bad decisions when he crosses paths with Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman); the leader of spiritual group The Cause, and the intellectual and emotional anchor that Freddie might just need for his life to begin to settle down. But Dodd has his own problems; with detractors claiming The Cause to be nothing more than a cult, and for all his self-righteousness, Dodd is just as volatile as Freddie when faced with any kind of confrontation.
From the first second we’re introduced to Freddie, you just know that Joaquin Phoenix is going to get an Oscar nomination. His unhinged, jittery, unsettling portrayal is of a man looking for a cure to an emotional sickness he doesn’t want to admit he has. The same goes for Philip Seymour Hoffman, with his seemingly deep pool of calmness hiding potentially bi-polar levels of rage. And lest we forget Amy Adams as Dodd’s wife, all sweetness and light in public, but turning into Lady MacBeth behind closed doors, whispering in her husband's ear to do her bidding.
Just as those in front of the camera can expect a seat at the Academy Awards, so too can those behind it; the cinematography is beautiful, the soundtrack is eccentrically brilliant and Anderson's direction is perfect. But despite all of this, there is a level of connection that seems to be missing from The Master. Whereas with all of his previous outings you were completely enraptured by the characters on screen, here Anderson has developed a Kubrick-esque sense of clinical distancing. Plus, at 144 minutes, it overstays its welcome when a perfect ending arrives about 15 minutes prior to the actual conclusion. None of these things take away from the fact that The Master is a rich, lush, well-acted period-piece, but it will take some processing to decide whether it belongs in the masterpiece category.
Review by Rory Cashin | 16:40 | Wednesday 7th November 2012 | Movie Review
The Master is the second-best film I've seen this year (the other being The Dark Knight Rises). Utterly hypnotic. Go see.Posted 11:40 | Sat 17th Nov 2012
Great acting by Joaquin Phoenix & Philip Seymour Hoffman but its a strange movie. In the end I was disappointed by it.Posted 16:12 | Mon 19th Nov 2012
I was very much looking forward to this film but, alas, I was to be disappointed. As the review says, it never quite connects. The repellent characters are not the problem - Daniel Plainview was hardly likeable, and yet he was mesmerising; the problem, for me, was that the film didn't delve deep enough into the tricks and deceptions of a manipulator like the Dodd character, nor did it convincingly explore the destructive forces in the Freddie character. Cinematography and score were good, but the film was overlong and failed to engage. 3/5Posted 16:34 | Fri 23rd Nov 2012
A classic. Phoenix is frighteningly brilliant. Thank God there are Directors like Anderson who continue to make difficult, challenging cinema like this. You owe it to yourself to see this.Posted 22:41 | Fri 23rd Nov 2012
DID not like it , could not care for characters in the moviePosted 19:29 | Sat 24th Nov 2012
I must be missing something with this director, There Will Be Blood left me cold and The Master could have the sub-title There Will Be a Bored Audience. Or is that it? Is the movie so intelligent its meant to provoke irritation and confusion in the viewer? I felt the movie went in circles as we see repeated scenes of Freddie Quell undergoing therapy or we see his explosive volatile temper as he lashes out as a customer in a department store or a disciple of The Master who dares to mutter misgivings about him. Some of the scenes are ludicrous when Seymour Hoffman is regaling his followers with a version of The Rover and all the ladies appear nude. The scene where he breaks in to A Slow Boat to China is cringe worthy. Like I said this movie got under my skin and I did not enjoy it. By the way, if I could understand what the Freddie character was saying it might have enhanced my appreciation of this film immeasurably.Posted 16:34 | Sat 1st Dec 2012
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