(All images care of imdb.com)
It’s been five years since Paul Thomas Anderson’s critically acclaimed and Academy Award® winning drama, There Will Be Blood. As the Fall of 2012 casts its shadow, we are introduced to The Master, the story of a war veteran returning home uncertain and unsettled about his future — (Weinstein Company).
Joaquin Phoenix makes his return to the big screen after a four year hiatus and wows the viewer within the first five minutes of the film. Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a naval veteran struggling to find his place in society due to his aggressive temper and chronic alcoholism. (After we were all convinced that Phoenix was crazy after his long-haired, long-bearded, flat out strange appearance on David Letterman a few years ago, he plays this role all too well.)
Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers one of the finest performances of his career as “a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist, a theoretical philosopher, but above all…a man, just like you.” Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, the charismatic leader of a movement known as “The Cause,” where followers are instructed to look into past lives and free themselves of emotional pain and struggle (many have drawn similarities between “The Cause” and (The Church of) Scientology; and likewise Lancaster Dodd and L. Ron Hubbard).
Academy Award® nominee Amy Adams rounds out the cast and turns in a solid performance as Lancaster Dodd’s wife, Peggy.
The Master is centered around the dynamic between Lancaster and Freddie as they form a codependent mentor-protégé relationship . Their relationship is a slow symphony that never quite builds to it’s crescendo, but it never needs to. We see a powerful exchange in a jail cell between the two, and a few violent outbursts from Freddie, but Anderson quickly returns us to the slow and methodical pace. Part of the film focuses on Lancaster’s struggles to “cure” Freddie. There is one point in which Lancaster proclaims to his family, “If we are not helping him, then it is we who have failed him.”
Without getting into too much detail, I will say that upon the first viewing, The Master cannot be easily grasped or understood. Viewers will feel confused and a tad overwhelmed – multiple viewings are definitely suggested – but it never compromises the brilliance of the film.
The Master is not a masterpiece, there isn’t much of a plot – or much of a story – but it is intelligent and ambitious.
Driven by outstanding performances and beautiful cinematography, The Master is a striking portrait of humanity’s search for external meaning and the desire to be led, and is most definitely a must see.
Rhyme et Reason Reviews is a new series which will feature commentary from select contributors including Patrick Dougherty.