Let's find out what RAMA thought of THE MASTER.
I’m not sure why people are fussing about how this movie may have been intended to make fun of Scientology, because I certainly don’t see it that way. I’m not defending Scientology, but THE MASTER is not about a certain specific denomination, it’s about more than that, it’s about writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s exploring how aimless and purposeless life was for soldiers post-WWII, how that longing for something greater than themselves can be easily taken advantage of by a false belief system. I see THE MASTER as PTA’s way of telling everybody to not simply take things as they are given to you but to keep investigating to see if there’s any truth to it, THE MASTER is PTA’s way of studying the influencer and the influenced, how even the leader doesn’t fully control his own destiny, I think PTA is more interested in the two lead characters’ affecting and desperately needing and feeding off each other’s weaknesses..
A striking portrait of drifters and seekers in post World War II America, Paul Thomas Anderson’s THE MASTER unfolds the journey of a Naval veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) who arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future – until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
If you thought Joaquin Phoenix was excellent in Gladiator and Walk The Line, wait til you see his unequaled performance in THE MASTER. The fact that he hasn’t received the Oscar he so richly deserves is one life’s unsolved mysteries.
Freddie is a WWII vet whose personal demons are too many to count and Phoenix lost a lot of weight for this role, Phoenix would often put his hands to his waistside and he slouches, you’re never quite sure if Freddie just has temper problem or he’s suffering from something more severe than that but Pheonix plays Freddie like he’s a man who’d rather hide behind crude jokes as his defense mechanism, he’s like one of those patients that hates psychologists but keeps coming back because he has nowhere else to go. There’s that raw, uncontrollable, unpredictable, animalistic drive that Freddie exudes and those are the things that make THE MASTER a.k.a Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) interested in Freddie.
I don’t need to tell you how Hoffman quickly rose to become one of all-time’s greatest actors in just a span of one decade, since 2005′s Capote, you can always count on Hoffman to deliver his best and as The Master, the leader of a movement called The Cause, Hoffman is highly charismatic and oddly seductive, he can make you believe every lie that comes out of his mouth. Dodd (Hoffman) is intelligent and I think he sees in Freddie both a person that he wants to save and a person who he could channel his mischief through.
Dodd makes Freddie not only his protege but also his experiment and it’s all because his desire to attack his doubters, to show his believers that his teachings are right, but when he can’t fully heal Freddie, he blames it on Freddie and then he changes parts of his method or teaching which then exposes him for the insecure and failed phony that he really is.
Amy Adams represents the fact that behind every man, there’s a solid woman. As the steely wife, Peggy, you can definitely see the influences she has on Dodd. Peggy is a dangerous wife, the kind that would go the distance for her husband even if she knows that the husband has done the unthinkable. She never likes Freddie, never fully embraces him as part of The Cause and eventually wins her husband back.
In a way, you can say that THE MASTER is Paul Thomas Anderson’s bromance or unlikely father-son movie, Dodd taking advantage of everybody post WWII who are asking ‘what now?’ or ‘where do the dead go’ and taking advantage of restless folks like Freddie. Freddie badly wants to belong to a community, to be part of something bigger than himself, but his self gets in the way. The two want to connect with each other but their different ways of communication just ultimately can’t meet in the middle.
The decision to shoot this film in 65mm gave it a very cinematic, distinctive, supersaturated period look, Paul Thomas Anderson’s coming back to composer Jonny Greenwood, the Radiohead guitarist, for THE MASTER’s music, is a sign of PTA’s confidence in Greenwood’s way of capturing Freddy and Dodd story through different sounds and techniques.
Watching THE MASTER, you’re going to be bombarded with strong sexual remarks and certain comments that some may deem too much information but it’s just PTA’s way of showing you how messed up the relationship of Dodd-Freddie is and the two just couldn’t make it work in the end. So if you think this is just a movie targeted at Scientology,.. think again.
GRADE: 4 out of 5
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