The Master – Film Review

Oct 23, 2012 No Comments by

Every fall a film kicks up Oscar buzz, initiating a blitz of promotion and glad-handing as Hollywood rolls out its “respectable” films. This year one film receiving Hollywoods early accolades is “The Master,” directed by P.T. Anderson. Don’t get me wrong, “The Avengers” was a nice dose of silly fun, but you’re not likely to see it get nominated for anything other than technical achievement awards. “The Master” is the sort of think piece that Academy voters lap up like hungry kittens; written, directed by, and starring past winners and nominees.

Inspired by, but not directly based on, the story of L. Ron Hubbard and the beginnings of Scientology, “The Master” stars Academy Award Nominee Joaquin Phoenix (“Walk The Line”) as Freddie Quell, an emotionally disturbed, sex-obsessed Navy veteran with an extreme inebriation fetish, who concocts cocktails out of whatever intoxicating chemicals he can get his hands on, be it alcohol, turpentine, or photo developing fluids. Following one of his benders, Freddie wakes up on the boat of Lancaster Dodd, played by Academy Award winner Phillip Seymore Hoffman (“Capote”). Dodd is the mysterious founder of “The Cause,” a group which believes that only by working through the traumas of ones past lives, can one move beyond the baggage of past existences and begin to forge a new identity.

Freddie is taken in by Dodd and his wife Peggy, played by Academy Award nominee Amy Adams (“Doubt”), where Freddie finds a sense of acceptance he hasn’t known before by submitting himself to “processing,” a series of interviews,hypnosis, and Mental endurance tests. Through he course of the film Freddie and Dodd develop an intimate master/pupil relationship.

The film contains extraordinary performances by Hoffman, who exhibits a great deal of subtlety and charisma, and Phoenix, who lurches and leers about the screen with an almost terrifying ferocity. Both performances are likely to be nominated several times during the upcoming awards season. The film is written and directed by Academy Award nominee Paul Thomas Anderson (“There Will Be Blood”), and has a good chance of getting Anderson his second best director nomination.

Where “The Master” falls short, however, is in the development of its narrative arc. For all of Freddie’s trials, he ends up little changed from the character we meet at the beginning of the film, making the viewer wonder if there was any point to all of the processing he goes through. Perhaps though, that’s the point Anderson is making with; that some people are simply beyond help. “The Master” is a powerful film that can stick with the viewer for days, causing them to analyze it from different points of view, seeing something different each time.

Entertainment, Movies

About the author

Alan Schooling grew up in Southern California before fleeing north to escape the heat. He has been obsessed with music for the last 24 years and had seen more concerts than he can remember. He is currently a communications major at Dominican University of California who is pursuing a career in journalism.
No Responses to “The Master – Film Review”

Leave a Reply