Movie Review: The Master

Posted: September 15, 2012 in movie reviews, movies
Tags: , , , , , ,

If I had to sum up this movie in one word, it would be smart. Or mesmerizing.  Maybe fascinating? Intriguing? I’m not quite sure what the correct word is. I should create a hybrid word like fasmeriguing?

The Master

Starring: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Laura Dern, Rami Malek, Jesse Plemons

I tried to do my best to go into The Master with an open mind. I first heard about it because all these articles were coming out about how it was partly inspired by Scientology. Which, in a funny way, both intrigued me and turned me off to it. Granted, all I know about Scientology is what we hear in the media and yeah Tom Cruise. But it’s important to know this movie may have been inspired by Scientology, but it wasn’t based on it. To pigeonhole this movie as a movie about a cult or a religious group, or religion in general would be a great injustice.

Premise: This movie is complicated and it deals with complex themes that aren’t black nor white. Freddy Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is an unpredictable, lost soul. It seems as if all his life he has been searching for something – stability, a purpose, love, a place to belong – and has never been able to find it. He enlisted in the Navy, hoping that would be the missing link, but upon discharge he found himself taking comfort in alcohol, drugs and sex as people dismissed him as a vagrant. One drunken night, he takes solace on a boat filled with a group of people that are enveloped in love, laughter, and friendship.  In the morning, he meets Landcaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), the Master of a “group” calling themselves “The Cause.” With Dodd’s lure of “curing” him of his various physical and mental maladies, Quell finds himself getting sucked into this unusual family.

My Review: Though I entered this movie with a fair amount of skepticism, I found this movie incredibly gripping. There were some moments I didn’t even realize I had tensed up my entire body and was practically holding my breath. It’s almost as if time and space were stopped while I was watching. This movie was void of car chases, gunfire, alien robots, and futuristic technology. In fact, it was set in the past and majority of the scenes were just a few characters in the room talking to each other. And you know what? It was completely and utterly fascinating.

This was thanks to P.T. Anderson’s smart writing and dialogue and the incredible performances of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. PSH was both gentle and terrifying as Dodd. His presence is commanding and with his devoted family (pregnant wife played by an intimidating Amy Adams) he gives the illusion that he has it all figured out.  Hoffman spoke Anderson’s words with such conviction you were thisclose believing in Dodd’s abilities, yet somehow, in the back of your mind, there was a lingering doubt. And that is what makes the writing so fantastic. Anderson uses his characters to play off of the audiences own disbelief. Joaquin Phoenix stretched himself the most in this movie.  At first, his portrayal of the struggling Quell is eccentric and a bit off putting. Quell is one of those guys you avoid in the street because you know he would come up and talk to you, and if he did you couldn’t be totally sure if he’d kill you, or if he were just lonely.  Quell doesn’t belong, and that’s what makes him so susceptible.  It takes a bit to get used to, but as the movie wears on you start to understand Quell, and you figure out the man he’s trying to become. You realize just how genius Phoenix’s performance is.

Even if I can’t find an exact word to describe this movie, I have to say it’s a must-see. Everything about this movie is top notch: Directing, writing, acting, even the cinematography is clever with long takes that are actually used to further the story rather than just show how “cool it is” to do a scene in one take. Even if it’s not you’re thing, it’s bound to earn a bunch of Oscar nominations, so check it out!

 

Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)

 

PS: I saw The Master in 70mm, and even though my friend tells me there was virtually no difference between this viewing and the digital, I would still recommend you guys check this movie out in 70mm or 35mm if at all possible. Support movies that directors choose to shoot on film. Because before we know it, it may be gone (which would be a travesty).

 

 

 

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