Written and Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Laura Dern, Ambyr Childers, Rami Malek, Jesse Plemons, Kevin J. O’Connor, Christopher Evan Welch
Rating: R; Running Time: 137 minutes
As Philip Seymour Hoffman’s “Master” strives to impress with eloquent language, fine suits and psychic parlor tricks that serve as a cerebral misdirection, we might as well wonder if filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson is similarly pulling some elaborate wool over our eyes. Though employing 65mm film stock, sumptuous cinematography and dead-on 50s production design, The Master isn’t a story writ large. It’s barely writ at all.
Rather, filmmaker Anderson delivers a series of beautifully photographed scenes that skitter around an amorphous whole. Who are these people? How is it that the protagonist (Joaquin Phoenix’ Freddie) is all but a dimwit with an aggressive libido and even more aggressive fists, whose biggest accomplishment lies in his ability to concoct lethal cocktails? (Seriously lethal, posing a very real possibility of inflicting death.) How is it that this fellow, grinning when he’s confused (which is often), bereft of a character arc, deserves to be the main focus of this film? Don’t tell Freddie he’s the protagonist; he’d be just as surprised as we are.
But like the Scientology aliens that are only barely hinted at in this movie about Master’s new religion that he calls “The Cause” … I’m getting ahead of myself.
It seems that post WWII Navy vet Freddie Quell may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. When given a Rorschach test, all he can see in the ink blots are genitals. After failing to find steady work, one night he lurches on to a private yacht, where the guests are celebrating the wedding of Master’s daughter Elizabeth (Ambyr Childers). Since Master, a/k/a Lancaster Dodd, perceives in Freddie a baser kind of animal than he’s accustomed to, Master is intrigued with the possibility of treating him. (Treating him for what?) Freddie, rootless, hangs around. At the very least, by carrying Master’s luggage and acting as the family’s muscle, he’ll be fed, clothed and housed.
[For Kimberly Gadette's full review and rating on doddle, please click here]