Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: The Master

The Master is one of the weirdest movies I've ever seen, all-be-it crafted masterfully by one of the weirdest directors in Hollywood.  I'd have to say that Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson and Darren Aronofsky are currently the three strangest directors working in film today.  While Wes usually makes meticulous quirky films and Aronofsky is involved in ambitious rambling movies, I always found myself enjoying PT Anderson's work the most.  I loved Anderson's last effort There Will Be Blood and hoped for more brilliance in this highly anticipated offering.  Unfortunately after a 160 minute runtime that flies by, I was underwhelmed by what I view as Anderson's worst movie to-date.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, a religious zealot in the 1950's known simply as "The Master."  He gains followers of his belief known as The Cause (which bears a close resemblance to Scientology) and ends up recruiting a socially outcast ex-Naval drunk named Freddie, played brilliantly by Joaquin Phoenix in his return to the big screen.   The plot (if you can actually call it that) of this mess of a film centers on Freedie's infiltration of The Master's inner circle and his relationship with its members including Dodd's wife Peggy played by Amy Adams.

The biggest problem with The Master is the story.  The plot never seems to really go anywhere and despite the violence throughout there's never the payoff at the end that we got in There Will Be Blood ("I drink your milkshake!").  We get several shocking vulgar scenes where it seems that Anderson's main goal is to throw us off-guard.  I was actually interested through the whole film and never felt like zoning out or falling asleep.  This is mostly due to the great musical score by frequent Anderson collaborator Jonny Greenwood coupled with some truly amazing cinematography.  Anderson is turning into an expert at holding long takes within a scene.  His use of camera focus is extremely effective as well and helps aid in telling the overall story.

What really shines in this film is the acting performances by most everyone involved.  Phoenix is incredible as a neurotic perverted psychopath and gives so much energy into each and every scene he is in.  You almost feel that his multi-year break from acting he saved up all this acting brilliance to pour into this role.  He is easily the front-runner for Best Actor despite having a strange and nearly pointless story to work with. Hoffman is outstanding in his reserved and preachy turn as a cult leader.  Adams gives yet another solid supporting performance as the faithful wife of a crazy man.  I'd really like to see her give a commanding lead performance in her career but for now she is solidly proficient at working well with her co-stars.

Overall I can only give this 3 out of 5 JRs.  I was disappointed primarily in the story that Anderson tells in this movie.  While it's interesting to see the genesis of a kooky cult religion, I feel that the film needed more of a character arc that advanced the story more.  I would wait for video on this one and prepare yourself for a long weird viewing session.  I hope PT Anderson hasn't totally lost his mind and that he can deliver a more polished total experience with his next film.

1 comment:

Mofrobby said...

Too bad - this had all the makings of a "must see" with some of my favorite actors. Thanks for saving me 160 minutes and $50 dollars in date night expenditures.