Movie Review: THE MASTER
Published: September 14, 2012 - 2:02pm
Beautifully captured and filled with wonderful performances, The Master is a thought-provoking cinematic experience. Although it isn't his best film to date, writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson proves once again that he is a wonderful story teller.
This film has been a basis of controversy due to it's obvious inspiration from the Church of Scientology and it's founder L. Ron Hubbard. But inspiration is where it ends as this is not a piece of historical fiction but an original story by Anderson and he should receive credit for crafting it. Much like his other films, The Master can be summed up as a story about aggressive personalities fighting against each other and their own pasts for control of their future. Taking place in the 1950's The Master focuses on the interactions of two characters -- magnetic leader Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his protege Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix). After being discharged from the Navy due to mental instability, Quell is a lost soul working whatever job comes his way. He meets Dodd who takes him under his wing under the ruse of curing his ailment but with the intent to sculpt him as his right hand man in a newfound religious movement, The Cause. For all intents and purposes a cult, The Cause wants its followers to face past trauma -- sometimes from previous lives -- in an effort to unlock their full potential and true happiness.
Phoenix is the driving force here, if only because he is given the most drastic character turn, and Hoffman delivers a surprisingly empathetic performance as a religious charlatan. Their dynamic painfully changes back and forth from a bonding pseudo-father and son relationship to staunch competitors with barely contained sexual tension. But Amy Adams was my favorite to watch, playing Dodd's wife Peggy with put-on grace and repressed hatred. Her chemistry with Hoffman is fantastic and pulses with explosive tension. My only real issue with the film is the lack of resolution for its characters, which is very disappointing since by the end of the film I was completely engrossed in their plight.
Anderson continues to hone his talent for selecting and guiding a skillful crew to capture the visceral aesthetic he wants. Production designer Jack Fisk and art director David Crank, who recently teamed with Anderson on There Will be Blood, as well as cinematographer Mihai Malaimare deserve loads of credit for making this film a richly detailed, immersive experience. If you have the option available, see it in its intended 70 millimeter format to properly absorb its vibrancy. What we are given is a beautiful film with the sensitivity of an exposed nerve. It's jarring and painful and hopeful all at the same time, a truly emotional roller-coaster. Though not my favorite movie of the year, it's undoubtedly one of the best.
The Master, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Jesse Plemons, David Warshofsky, Laura Dern, Lena Endre and is slated for release on September 14th, 2012.
A charismatic intellectual (Hoffman) launches a religious organization following World War II. A drifter (Phoenix) becomes his right-hand man but as the faith begins to gain a fervent following, the drifter finds himself questioning the belief system and his mentor