MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By The Weinstein Company
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman
When award season comes around, I have no doubt that The Master will get more than a few prizes. The acting is great, the set design of post-WWII America is spot on, the music score by Jonny Greenwood is outstanding, and the cinematography is stunning (filmed with 65mm film stock). However, I continue to be confounded by Paul Thomas Anderson’s screenplay, which is unsatisfying on so many levels I feel compelled to warn most of you to stay far, far away.
After watching the trailers for The Master, I was expecting a story about a fictitious pseudo-religious cult, its charismatic leader and an alcoholic loser who somehow form a close relationship with one another. Well, all of that is in this film; there’s truth in advertising.
What I wasn’t expecting was: 1) Navy war veteran Freddie Quill (Phoenix), an extreme alcoholic who will drink anything (and I mean anything – from torpedo fuel to paint thinner) and persuade others to enjoy his “cocktails”; 2) Freddie’s sex addiction; 3) A cult that has wealthy individuals as patrons, but never seems to have more than a few dozen folks together at any time; 4) A flamboyant performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman as cult leader Lancaster Dodd that is not particularly charismatic; 5) A programming technique for indoctrination that is not particularly persuasive; and 6) Too many “big moments” with nonstop scenery chewing from the two leads.
For reasons unknown to me, these shortcomings have been embraced by other critics as signs of this film’s unique and unconventional structure. Many are already calling it “a film classic”. Time will tell, but I am hoping that word of mouth from actual filmgoers will temper this praise. That may take a while, though; when I saw The Master on opening day my wife and I were the only ones in the theater
So here goes: Don’t see The Master. You won’t like it. Pass it on.
Two halos: This is a well-made, well-acted showcase for a gifted cast and crew that struts and frets its two hours and twenty minutes on the screen, full of sound and fury, signifying next to nothing.
Five pitchforks: You name the pitchfork, it’s here: graphic sex scenes, full frontal nudity, scenes of masturbation, constant profanity, and alcohol and drug abuse.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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