Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5
This ain’t no Boogie Nights! Paul Thomas Anderson, who wrote and directed The Master, is one of the most innovative, thought provoking film makers, but he also can make your skin creep, your mind wonder, and your head to scratch (?), but he won’t make you yawn. I don’t normally do this, but this quote from Leonard Maltin’s review says it better than I can: “The Master provides a challenging, alternately rewarding and frustrating experience unlike any other I’ve encountered this year. I’m sorry I couldn’t fully embrace it, but in the long run I’d rather watch Paul Thomas Anderson aim for the fences and miss than slog through sheer mediocrity.”
Start with the story: it’s not Scientology but you can imagine it certainly may have been inspired by Scientology, focusing on a compelling, charismatic author (Philip Seymour Hofman, whom I would go see if all he did was eat breakfast), self-styled scientist, who creates a movement (here called “The Cause”) which attracts followers through some supposed fact-based beliefs about time travel, past lives, attaining the perfection that once was our nature, all gained through “processing”, which is a combination Freudian confrontational therapy combined with almost hypnosis, to first remember, then re-imagine past events that must be confronted (sample question during this processing: “Did you ever sleep with anyone in your family”…asked 5 times in a row to see if the answer changes). The plot beyond this is centered around a drifter/loser/oversexed weirdo played by Jauquin Phoenix (who will rival Hofman for an Acadamy Award here, just a unique, unforgetable character he’s created), and his relationship as an acolyte/enforcer/son with The Master (Hofman). There are sexual undercurrents between them, although Hofman is clearly closely monitored by his powerful wife (Amy Adams, who’s perfect).
The visuals are incredible, as I expect in a PT Anderson film, but the music was too creepy for me, although I guess it accomplished its objective to set the mood in many scenes. Overall, while I was transfixed by the characters, the acting, the events, and visuals, I wasn’t emotionally involved, it’s not tremendous fun to watch and there was no real build up to any sort of climax. So it’s not a “great” movie, but certainly a great piece of film making that deserves to be seen.
Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5
I saw The Master at the Alamo Drafthouse early this afternoon and they lost my food order. It finally came with 20 minutes left in the movie at which point I said I didn’t want it any longer. If this had been a lesser movie, I would have been totally ticked off but this movie was so engrossing I just shrugged it off and had a big dinner.
Bill’s review does a good job of summarizing what’s going on in the movie but what made this movie so mesmerizing were the performances by Hoffman and Phoenix. Just the stuff Phoenix did with his body and facial expressions was amazing. Hoffman was equally great…he can even sing!