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Review: The Master

15
Posted September 22, 2012 by in Drama

Rating

Plot
75%


Acting
95%


Directing
90%


Cinematography
85%


Costume
85%


Musical Score
85%


Total Score
86%

86/ 100

What We Thought

Genre:
 
Director:
 
Actors: , ,
 
MPAA:
 
Runtime: 137 Minutes
 

What We Liked :

Career best performance from Joaquin Phoenix, Hoffman just as impressive Johnny Greenwood's fantastic score
 

What We Disliked:

Story holds little significance in success of the film
 
Bottom Line

The Master has incredible performances and score, but never merges the story into the picture.

by Max
Full Article

Director Paul Thomas Anderson has had several home-runs when it comes to achievements in cinema. Each of his films (specifically, Magnolia and There Will Be Blood) feature career best performances from his actors and in this particular case, The Master rises to the occasion; unfortunately, where it fails is how disjointed the film feels. Paul Thomas Anderson has proven before that he is capable of a compelling narrative in conjunction with story, but The Master never merges the two successfully.

Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) has just returned from a stint of duty in World War II. Surviving the war has done a number on his psyche. Not only does it leave him with an insatiable thirst for sex, but there’s never a moment when he isn’t boozing. After drifting from one place to another, he randomly decides to sneak onto a boat.

What Freddie doesn’t know is that the boat is in the possession of Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who describes himself as “many things, including a writer, doctor, a nuclear physicist, and a theoretical philosopher.”  Dodd is at the forefront of discovering a new form of spirituality, that has a seemingly cult-ish following. Freddie, being mentally disturbed on many levels, becomes the perfect guinea pig for Dodd to experiment upon and they both get what they need as Freddie feels compelled to follow a master.

As to be expected from a Paul Thomas Anderson picture, the performances in this film are on another level.  It has been a long time since Joaquin Phoenix has been in pictures, but this is wonderful return to the big screen. Like Daniel Day Lewis’ character in There Will Be Blood, Freddie Quell feels larger than life at times but can be adequately described as a loose cannon. After his first outbreak, there’s always a lingering fear that he might go off again. Phoenix keeps his same facial demeanor throughout the picture and exemplifies the mental illness plaguing Freddie.  On the other side of the coin, Philip Seymour Hoffman holds his own as the Master, Lancaster Dodd. There seems to be a blind ambition within Dodd’s character, that even though he may not fully believe the words he’s written, he will convince others that his word is scripture.  It would seem that some of that ambition comes from his wife, Peggy Dodd (Amy Adams), but he is still a man true to his convictions.  While Amy Adams does a fine job here, the movie really succeeds on the performances of Phoenix and Hoffman.

Some other familiar collaborators returned from other Paul Thomas Anderson movies to work on The Master, most notably, Johnny Greenwood (Radiohead).  He comes equipped with another haunting soundtrack. While minimalist at some points, there are scenes where the music completely dictates the feeling of uneasiness. Also of note, Anderson decided to shoot The Master on 70mm.  The film is only playing on 35mm in this area, but if it’s playing in 70mm its worth checking out.

More so than any other of his films, Anderson’s The Master relies solely on the characters to be the fuel for his story. While there are moments of unease and high tension, the story is more of a platform in which Hoffman and Phoenix show their talent, and although there will be accolades for their performances, The Master will fail to raise the bar from its superior predecessors.

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[Editor’s Note: The Master  contains a high amount of sexual situations and nudity]

About the Author

Max

Chief Editor of Impassionedcinema. A film enthusiast who studies and creates his own films. Criticizing movies is his favorite pass-time.

15 Comments


  1.  

    You really hit the nail on the head with this review. The acting was tremendous, and it’s the reason to see the movie. But there was some void that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I’m not sure how I’ll be able to review this one, but yours was great!




    •  
      impsndcnma

      The biggest problem I have with my own review is just how solid The Master is. I would love to dismiss it because it didn\’t meet my expectations, but the facts remain that the soundtrack, costume design, direction, and acting are high quality no matter how you slice it. That\’s why even though my words don\’t end up being so glowing, it still received a high score in the end. Thanks for checking out my review.




  2.  

    I really want to see this, and with a big score like that from my mate, it kinda underlines my need for it!!

    Great job sir!




    •  
      impsndcnma

      Just keep in mind my score only dictate that the sum of all the parts is greater than the disappointing story. YMMV when it comes to your enjoyment of the film.




  3.  

    My (teeny tiny) gripe is how on-the-nose it is. The protag’s name is Quell, for crying out loud.

    I wonder if it isn’t hurt with fans because it doesn’t have one big “HOLY CRAP!” moment. TWBB had the bowling alley, Magnolia had the frogs, Boogie Nights had the Sister Christian sequence (and the prodigious dong at the end)… The Master really didn’t have anything like that to tie everything together.

    Still, I liked it a ton. It’s sort of in that weird realm where I think it’s more than worthy of a Best Picture nod, but I wouldn’t feel right if it won unless the next four months suck a lot.




    •  
      impsndcnma

      I think the holy crap moment was supposed to be that sing-a-long at the end. haha. I\’m looking forward to seeing some more quality films come out. I was disappointed when There Will Be Blood didn\’t win the best picture Oscar, but I won\’t feel that way about The Master at all.




  4.  

    Can’t really argue with any of your complaints because this really is a film that rests largely on the shoulders of its two leads. As a character study, it’s fascinating. Glad you still enjoyed it quite a bit.




    •  
      impsndcnma

      Technically specking its a fantastic film. I still believe it everyone should see, it just didn\’t impress me plot-wise as much as I would\’ve hoped.




  5.  

    Your final paragraph really sums up my thoughts exactly as well. Well done review here Max. It was a hard one for me to review because I felt I should’ve liked it far more than I did…when in actuality I liked the performances solely…which were phenomenal.




  6.  

    I’ve read a couple of similar reviews of the film. I’m glad to read that Joaquin Phoenix is back at making films, and not pseudo documentaries based on some sort of alter-ego / mental breakdown. I never doubted his talent since I first saw him steal the show in Gladiator.

    As for P.S. Hoffman, well, enough has been said about him. He’s such a great character actors, one of the best of his generation in my opinion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film in which he was bad in. In fact, he usually steals the show even when he has a minor supporting role.

    I can’t wait to watch this film for I think very highly of Paul Thomas Anderson as do you.

    I do hope I like it just a little more than you did.




    •  
      impsndcnma

      I agree that enough has been said about P.S. Hoffman. He\’s an amazing actor and is a treat in any movie he picks out. I\’m also glad that Phoenix is back from semi-retirement. He needs to do some more movies. Sooner rather than later.




  7.  

    Great review! I haven’t seen this movie yet, but I read in few articles it’s one of those movies that keeps you guessing and you can interpret in many ways – that sounds like it has a lot of substance.




    •  
      impsndcnma

      You sure can interpret it in many ways. Sometimes that can be a good thing for sure, but I\’m not too sure it helps this film. I hope you do end up enjoying it when you see it though.




      •  
        laura smith

        I THINK THAT IF YOU WATCH THIS FILM AGAIN, YOU WILL BE SURPRISED AT HOW MUCH MORE YOU GET OUT OF IF. ALSO, IF YOU READ MORE REVIEWS, YOU WILL BE SURPRISED AT ALL THE DIFFERERNT TAKES ON THIS BEAUTIFULLY FILMED AND ACTED MOVIE.





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