Originally Posted by Jerk Shapiro
I loved it but I don't know why . . . here PTA has created an ambitious, ambiguous, and incredible Kubrickian masterpiece that I truly won't be able to understand until a couple of more viewings.
Precisely my feelings as well. I want to write a review, but I need to soak this film in. My brother really wants to see it, so I'll take another viewing with him and get my bearings together.
EDIT: The more I thought about, the more I really wanted to write my thoughts as soon as possible. Here's the review!
The essence and familiarity of control; there’s always an inherent need to know where our lives are going, and where they have always been. Men and women always have a path situated for their lives, and they are determine to follow that path until it leads to happiness or accomplished. But, there are always those “lost souls”, men and women who don’t have a certain path to follow on their own. They are the “sheep”, and in most cases need a “shepherd” to bring them into the clearing. But, what if that same “shepherd” seems to have a grand idea of where the path lies, but the lone “sheep” is at crossroads on what can be believed to be true, or possibly false. This is director Paul Thomas Anderson’s question in his latest film The Master, a character study of a lost, wandering World War Two veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) who comes under a wing of a boisterous intellectual (Philip Seymour Hoffman) that seems to have a discover a new belief known simply as “The Cause”.
After the Kubrickian-like masterpiece of There Will Be Blood, Thomas decides to take that grand epic of his previous films into more contained quarters. The sweeping camerawork and soundtrack is still used in spectacular effect, but Thomas utilizes his tricks to focus on two different, yet somewhat similar individuals. One is Phoenix’s Freddie Quell, an alcoholic, broken man trying to find his place after the war. Much like Daniel Day Lewis’s Oscar-winning turn in Blood, Phoenix certainly takes a cue from Lewis, creating a character all of his own. The actor is recognizable, but the character that he develops is a different breed entirely. Prone to violence and a lack of manners, Quell is an outsider and degenerate in the most pure sense. But, Anderson takes the time to show why this man has developed cracks in his shell, with one spectacular sequence opposite Seymour’s calm and persuasive Lancaster Dodd. It’s there that the viewer sees Quell at his weakest, and Anderson seems to make a statement that despite Quell’s ferocity and immaturity, he’s simply a man looking for a connection.
Lancaster Dodd is that “connection”, and Hoffman’s Dodd is one of those thinkers that believe what he says, as well as getting others to believe as well. He is methodical, nurturing, and believed to be something of a “higher-than-thou” leader. But, as everyone is, Dodd is human. He can’t sustain criticism from others that disprove his own beliefs, and resort to Quell-like outbursts when backed into corner concerning his philosophies. It’s there that the relationship between Quell and Dodd blooms, despite coming from opposite paths. Quell needs Dodd as there’s a place for him in the world, and Dodd uses Quell as his pet, a man that he believes could be the source towards showing his philosophic teachings and therapies could truly work.
The remaining cast plays to more of a background effect to Phoenix’s and Hoffman’s proceedings, but certainly make their mark when needed, Amy Adams in particular. Adams plays Dodd’s wife Peggy, sort of the “Lady Macbeth” in the relationship. Peggy wants to ensure that Dodd is kept on the clear, simple path that he’s been striving for, not jumping toward the beaten path that Quell seems to slowly envelope onto Dodd. She breathes contempt and control when she can onto Lancaster, and Adams nails every scene where she is given that chance.
The Master certainly has the look, sound and feel that 2007’s Blood oozed, but Anderson doesn’t want to replicate that. He’s more interested in going less straight forward that he did with Blood, and sort of brings a dreamlike quality that helps, but somewhat hinders the film as the story draws to the close. Not to say that it is a glaring flaw, but if there’s any faults that come within Anderson’s script, which is a take (but surprisingly never a lambasting) on the belief of Scientology, it is the rushed conflict that begins to bubble in the middle act. But, with such good acting within these faults, that’s a very small complaint on this reviewer’s part. He still has that Kubrickian eye behind the camera that is a joy to behold, always in control and methodical in a given scene.
If you’re a fan of Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous work, then deciding on whether or not you should see The Master is simply no question. It’s a tremendous film that involves the viewer with high caliber acting, impeccable direction, another wonderful soundtrack by Jonny Greenwood, and a deep, thoughtful story that only slips in certain aspects, but for the most part is always in control.
Control is a funny thing, but Anderson’s film presents a thoughtful idea on how that very idea of control can shape the paths and destinies of the intellect on the set path, as well the vagrants on the beaten.