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Movies.ie Critic Review
THE MASTER (USA/16/144mins)
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Jesse Piemons, Ambyr Childers, Rami Malek, Amy Ferguson.
THE PLOT: It’s the end of World War II, and Freddie Quell (Phoenix) is spending much of his time brewing up some literally lethal homebrew, as he and the rest of his US Navy buddies wait on a tropical island for their ticket home. A man with a temper, and a malicious streak, after a string of bust-ups and chases, Freddie wakes up as a stowaway on a yacht, where the wedding celebrations for the daughter of the enigmatic Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman) are taking place. Dodd is currently working on his second book, charting his beliefs in alien ancestry and laying out the foundations for The Cause – his human-potential movement. Freddie is soon welcomed into this travelling circus, as they head out across America to spread the word and raise some funds…
THE VERDICT: Another beautifully crafted and breezily bonkers study of madness by Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master could almost be a companion piece to 2007’s There Will Be Blood. The real question is, did Joaquin Phoenix know they were making a movie? Maybe he thought this was a sequel to his own moc-doc. Called I’m Here Because I’m Not All There.
Which, of course, could be the motto of the Church of Scientology, the pseudo-religion that many will be thinking of as The Master explores the kind of people attracted to such cults, and the kind of people who start them. Then again, maybe it’s the founding of the Golden Globes? Either way, we know we’re witnessing the birth of a multi-million-dollar scam here.
Anderson has said that much of The Master was made up as they went along, which might explain the well-dressed, wide-eyed mania on offer here - and the sort of narrative that reflects more than a little madness both in front and behind the camera. It may also explain why the ending kinda… well, peters out.
The towering film critic David Thompson has questioned the inevitable critical praise foisted upon The Master (great actors waving it all about for a masterful filmmaker once again going down a psychological black hole), noting that in the US, the film has had a 25% walk-out rate. So, you know, be prepared. This is art house writ large. You can tell it’s art house because Philip Seymour Hoffman gets jerked off. You know where you are when Philip Seymour Hoffman pulls that face. RATING: 3/5
Review by Paul Byrne