The Master

The Master

Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Jesse Plemons
Running Time: 2 hrs 17 mins
Rating: R
Release Date: September 21, 2012

PLOT: A Navy man (Phoenix) returns home after WWII, stumbling through life with post traumatic stress disorder. He encounters a charismatic leader (Hoffman) who loves his companionship and thinks he can change his life.

WHO’S IT FOR? Anderson fans, who hold There Will Be Blood above the others.

OVERALL

The Master is about … men, animals, control, and escape … I’m confident about all of this, yet I still feel a yearning to go back and see the film again. My main motivation for seeing it a second time is for the performances. I feel a very strong desire to sit and stare at Phoenix and Hoffman, even if I don’t care too much about this particular story.

Freddie has post traumatic stress disorder brought on by being a Navy man in World War II. Here’s the thing, I can’t imagine Freddie being normal. Once you see his frail, yet powerful figure, his slouched shoulders, and his left-side talking mouth, you can only invasion this character this way. Freddie stumbles and rages through life with a special knack for finding the alcoholic, mind-altering cocktail in almost any liquid combination.

Freddie hops a boat and happens to meet Lancaster. It’s a name that exudes a pompous attitude. Hoffman embraces and combats this with his overwhelmingly adorable personality. His smile is just as powerful as Freddie’s punch. What brings them together? The drink. Escape. Even though Lancaster is desperate to control his surroundings, he also needs the type of escape only a man like Freddie can provide, basic and raw.

The quick and easy way to describe Lancaster and what he does is by simply bringing up L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. The cause, processing, and his followers all work to play a role in this film, as well as the supporting cast. Adams, as Lancaster’s wife, is magnificent, especially toward the end when you realize what a leader and important presence she is for Lancaster. Jesse Plemons (“Friday Night Lights”) and Laura Dern also stand out in limited roles. Everything seems to exist only to serve our two lead characters. This film isn’t about Lancaster creating a new movement, with us being a fly on the wall, or watching this world with Freddie as our guide. This is a film about Freddie and Lancaster finding each other, embracing each other and also driving each other crazy. It’s an emotional love story. I’m convinced that having this mindset during my second viewing will help me embrace this film even more.

Paul Thomas Anderson created interesting worlds with Magnolia (my favorite), Boogie Nights, and Hard Eight. With There Will Be Blood, Punch-Drunk Love and now The Master he has created truly memorable characters. I didn’t feel like I needed oil or a new-age movement to love Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Phoenix or Hoffman.

The adrenaline of the film is uneasy. Jonny Greenwood created the musical score and definitely aids in that feeling, with many tracks traveling to the next scene in the film, bringing with it that same emotion. When Hoffman speaks, dropping words like “scoundrel” and “naughtiness” or even “pig fuck” I wanted more. When Phoenix rages on a cop, a bed or a wall, I wanted more. I didn’t care about The Master as much as I would have liked, but when everything else is perfect, it just means I’ll be happily getting to know it better in the future.

Final Score: 7/10

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