Movie Title: The Master
First Watch / Repeat Viewing
Running Time: 2 hr. 18 min.
Who did I watch with?: Stephie
Where did I watch it?: Home
The Master stars Joaquin Phoenix as a World War II veteran struggling with post-traumatic stress and alcoholism. After being discharged from the Navy and displaying a serious sexual dysfunction Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) begins to get fired from every job he can obtain. He is fired from his job as a photographer at a department store and can’t even hack it as a field hand. In a drunken stupor he stumbles onto the boat of Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who quickly welcomes him to be part of the crew.
Lancaster Dodd runs a philosophical group that on its surface seems similar to Scientology. Quell does not know how to be a good person and Dodd fosters a relationship with him to try and lift him up. At the same time he travels the country convincing people to believe in his masquerade in order to earn money. Lancaster’s wife Peggy (Amy Adams) accompanies him on his mission and helps him write his memorandums. The rest of his family all have a role within the group. Quell takes on his own roles as the group invests heavily in his training.
The costuming and set design create an authentic 1950s period piece, but the pacing and the direction are fairly unfocused. The Dodd family has clear internal troubles, but they are difficult to get accustomed to or develop sympathy for because of their unorthodox nature, and lack of screen time for some of the significant players. Hoffman’s performance is charismatic and convincing, but everyone else in his family is shallow and one dimensional. Phoenix plays a disturbing character that changes little and hits the same notes again and again. At a certain point the plot stops being compelling and just becomes a chore. It is also exceptionally long and the editor should have left a solid piece of it on the cutting room floor.
It is pretty. The lighting, costuming, cinematography, and set design are lovely. But, the plot is a chore and it isn’t all that interesting. If you are a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson it is worth seeing. Otherwise, skip it.
Tomorrow’s Movie: Do The Right Thing (1989)