“The Master” (Drama: 2 hour, 18 minutes)
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Rated: R (Thematic elements, sexuality, nudity, alcohol usage, profanity and violence)
Movie Review: Naval veteran Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) arrives home from World War II. He becomes a drifter and alcoholic, a man committing one sin after the next. His future is dim until he meets Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), the charismatic leader of The Cause, a new religion with different views outside of other mainstream religions.
Paul Thomas Anderson helms this mental-driven screenplay that takes place in a post-World War II United States. Anderson directs solid films with an edge: “Boogie Nights” (1997), “Magnolia” (1999) and “Punch-Drunk Love” (2002). He directs like a maestro artist. Even more, his photoplays have a genuine intellectual component. They are thinking films as much as they are entertaining. Therefore, they exist for certain intellectual crowds, which mean many ignore his films.
"The Master” is another edgy film. It is a higher thinking film. One must decide if the characters are sincere about their beliefs. This is not an easy task. Anderson, as director and scripter, makes this a film about characters and their nature. More important, he uses his players and their often-dysfunctional relationships with each other.
What makes this film somewhat controversial is that it appears based on Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. According to reports, Anderson finally admitted in fall of 2012 that he based the charismatic leader Lancaster Dodd on Hubbard. This is evident if one sees the film.
A question remains. What is Anderson’s intent?
This will matter little for those who are fans of Anderson’s film. His films are cerebral. They contain good acting and a plot with original twists.
Like many of the movies of 2012, the acting is superior to the movie as a whole. Phoenix, Seymour and Adams received Academy Award nominations for their roles. Their acting is phenomenal, especially Phoenix and Hoffman.
The plot on the other hand is worthy, but while energetic mentally, it is not necessarily entertaining. This is not the film to see if one is tired. This exists because this film is thoughtfully provocative. It engages by being unapologetically in your face as a brainteaser.
This style works in most of Anderson’s screenplays. It does here, too. The major problem is that “The Master’s” characters argue and commit the same actions repetitively. This aspect of this film can be tedious and equally perplexing at moments. When the cast commits these repetitive actions, audiences must ponder characters’ intent.
In that manner, “The Master” is mind scrambling often, but its quality is topnotch. Anderson delivers again.
Grade: B (Anderson remains a master of filmmaking.)
“The Call” (Thriller: 1 hour, 34 minutes)
Starring: Halle Berry, Michael Eklund, Abigail Breslin and Morris Chestnut
Director: Brad Anderson
Rated: PG-13 (Profanity, violence and thematic elements)