Saturday Movie: The Master (2012)

Paul Thomas Anderson sealed his name out there as a director with There Will Be Blood and Boogie Nights, which was an intriguing and unexpectedly odd movie. So when The Master was in the talks of hitting theaters it met with buzz and anticipation. The Master does give you some things you would expect. Somehow Anderson always blend this oddity with a very serious vibe, and it comes off eerie, but intriguing to the viewer.

Freddie is a World War II naval veteran, and he has returned home but feels unsettled and uncertain of the path his future will take. One night while on the run he stumbles upon a man, Lancaster Dodd, who credits himself with being the leader of a movement called The Cause. He promotes healing and self motivation through a controversial means that has made him the target of authorities. He takes Freddie under his wing though as his greatest project to fix yet, hoping to cure his mind, and give him a direction. Freddie may be more destructive to the promotion of his cause than good though, and everyone involved including Lancaster’s wife, Peggy, are trying to encouarage him to let go of helping Freddie.


The thing that makes The Master as alluring as it is is the acting. It is very intense, and the way the characters are able to carry themselves makes it even more so. Even though Lancaster is trying to gain a following of people he believes into a lifestyle that he finds happy no one really seems happy in this movie. Peggy can’t be happy with the treatment taking place in the movement despite the fact she takes part in it, and Freddie just seems like a deeply disturbed guy. The more you find out about his obsession with an ex girlfriend the more you find he may be beyond help, and that his root isn’t a lot of problems that Lancaster thinks it is.

Joaquin Phoenix has sort of made himself an odd persona in real life, so it’s no surprise that his portrayal of Freddie is creepy, and a little off putting to his character. The main problem with the whole movie is that Freddie is never likable at any moment, and his weird perversion of sex makes him way too odd to even consider trying to relate to. No one wants to try to understand a guy who makes a sand woman on a beach to have sex with. Philip Seymour Hoffman is probably the stand out performance of the film, and rightfully deserved a nomination. He’s quite charming, and you can tell how a guy like him would begin this whole cult that draws people in.

Amy Adams is also another notable starring in the movie, and while she can’t stand out against Phoenix, and Hoffman’s characters that have way more personality, she does a good job in her role. She’s quiet, but there is something about her that reads strong despite the fact she is the pregnant wife of a man who seems to have incorporated sex, and the objectification of women into his movement. During one party only the women are nude while they dance with man.

The Master does have some slow parts though, and once you see that there is no real change, but only insight into what makes Freddie more and more off as life goes you may lose interest. The way the movie is filmed is intriguing though as some parts really do seem like they walked right out of the 40s to be filmed. Anderson doesn’t fall short of capturing that time period. Some parts are disturbing to watch though, so depending on what you can put up with there is some good stuff to look for in the movie including the great acting.

Rating 7 of 10

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