REVIEW: The Master


600full-the-master-posterFor the first time since There Will Be Blood in 2007, Paul Thomas Anderson releases only his sixth feature to date. Following critical reception of his past films and being a director of quality over quantity, Anderson’s latest film The Master was going to become an immediate lookout for Oscars. However, this is a very different project compared to his past works as it is a film for the audience to just observe and work out for themselves. Therefore The Master is not to everybody’s taste. The film may feature absolutely fantastic Oscar-worthy performances from its ensemble cast and at least satisfactory direction from Anderson, but it is still a slight misfire.

Every great director of quality over quantity has made at least one feature for audiences to observe that expresses the world in either a natural or unusual way which usually provides a philosophical meaning. What Anderson wanted the audience to visually look out for in The Master becomes very clear but, unfortunately, it becomes rather bleak and does not become the mesmerizing film that it should have been. To cut it short, the plot follows a war veteran returning home and suffering from post-dramatic stress and alcoholism. It sounds simple and it can be portrayed in a much easier way for audiences to understand but as the film continues, there are moments added that just do not quite adjust and leaves the audiences with almost nothing to reflect on. For example, the whole fictional philosophical movement ‘The Cause’ did not feel in any way connected to true problems of alcoholism and post-dramatic stress. It becomes a fantasy playing with reality and it does not work.

However, Anderson directs a fantastic group of actors that result in being what makes The Master at least a satisfactory film to endure. First, Joaquin Phoenix makes a triumphant return to acting in the role of struggling war veteran and now alcoholic Freddie Quell. Ironically, Phoenix has had issues with alcohol in the past and in The Master, we see him as beyond an actor playing a character. In that sense, he is expressing to viewers of what his own problems were and how different one can become. In addition, Phoenix exposed the damage that aspects of life can cause, which also includes his clear sexual addiction. That and what Freddie’s duties were in the war are undermined by focusing more on his alcoholism and goes into his dysfunctional mindset. Nevertheless, Joaquin Phoenix may have had a distinct advantage going into the role of Freddie but his performance is undoubtedly the strongest feature in The Master. Therefore, he deserves that over-due Academy Award that he has missed out on a number of times.

Among the rest of the cast is Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who is marking his fifth collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson. He plays Lancaster Dodd, the leader of ‘The Cause’. Hoffman plays Dodd with such simplicity yet in a rather subtle manner. As opposed to Freddie, Dodd is a controlled and respected individual. We see this through his calm tone of voice, his well-presented appearance and evidently, being the head of a specific community. However, gradually he slowly becomes angry and emotionally-threatened, particularly during his encounters with Freddie. Amy Adams makes an appearance in The Master too but her character Peggy Dodd does not get enough on-screen time but when we do see her, she indicates the wealth of Lancaster and sees a rather logical relationship between him and Freddie.

It is safe to say that what we see in The Master is not to everybody’s liking and perhaps deserves another viewing to grasp a clearer understanding. It evidently has so much going for it, including elements of religion, philosophy and mankind that could have been analyzed a lot more, but it suffers from a needlessly complex plot which goes down a road and eventually ends nowhere. Therefore, The Master is not the deserved Best Picture candidate that it should have been. However, at the same time in defense of the film, the performances are great and it should not be overlooked either.


~ by SJMJ91 on 17/12/2012.

One Response to “REVIEW: The Master”

  1. I struggled with The Master. I know I liked it but I’m not really sure why since the plot is soooo far out there. My sister had a theory that Quell and Dodd were the same person. I don’t know about that but I do know I need to watch this one a few more times.

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