Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Master: Movie Review


Destructive forces taking us on an historical ride through the allure of cults.

Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a sexually-frustrated World War II Navy vet who struggles to find his place in the world when he returns to America. He excels at mixing highly-toxic liquids into consumable alcoholic concoctions and seducing women, but neither are self-fulfilling careers. Then he meets The Master, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a charismatic cult leader perfecting his writing and theories. 2012

Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson

Screenplay by: Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams

Like all Paul Thomas Anderson films, “The Master” takes awhile to start clicking. But the strength of this film, like most of his, is the lead performances. Phoenix and Hoffman are absolutely mesmerizing as two very destructive men. Freddie is really just self-destructive, but Lancaster’s charisma, money, persuasive insistence, and passion in his beliefs is an all-encompassing, external destructive force.

Lancaster likes Freddie’s alcoholic concoctions and proceeds to use him as a test subject. Freddie gets consumed into the cult’s lifestyle as rich women take them in so the Master can teach them life secrets. Freddie, at times, is disillusioned by the Master’s techniques, but when he returns “home” and thinks a 16 year-old girl is his soul mate, he is probably no better on his own.

The cinematography was gorgeous, capturing the innocence of the 40s and 50s as well as the manipulative nature of the cult-like group the Master has formed. There was a scene near the end which eerily resembled an almost identical scene from “There Will be Blood” (2007), which can take you out of the moment. But Phoenix and Hoffman never leave the moment. As manipulated and manipulative they both are, I found I was able to stay detached from the story. That’s likely a good thing.