The Master (2012)
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams
Freddie Quell (Phoenix) is back in the States after serving in the Navy during World War II. His return home is colored by his post-traumatic stress and battles with alcoholism. Things begin to change for Freddie when he meets Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), the leader of a group known as The Cause. The Cause opens up ways for Freddie to explore his emotions and he is soon wrapped up in their society.
This film was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood). He brought his incredible skill with a camera and his vast array of skills to this unique film. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator, Quills), Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Ides of March, Moneyball), and Amy Adams (The Muppets, The Fighter). The stars in this movie earned three Oscar nominations including Best Actor (Phoenix), Best Supporting Actor (Hoffman), and Best Supporting Actress (Adams).
The visual work in this movie is wonderful. The camera seems to always be moving, but not in a way that distracts from the moment. The sets are incredible, and the costumes are perfect for the era. Even the locations the film uses seem to be tailor-made for the moment. In some ways this movie feels inspired by the work of Terrence Malick, with epic scales and intimate moments mixed together throughout.
The story for this movie is the weakness. Despite having great moments, the movie never really seems to take off. The plot points are almost lost in the existential moments throughout the movie. It’s almost as though the story was written as they filmed. This is unfortunate since the movie features such strong performances and amazing visuals. It also doesn’t help to have a film like this that runs for over 140 minutes.
Overall, I think this movie fell short of the message it was trying to give. I liked the story, but the weaknesses made it impossible to love. The performances were all great though, and this makes up for a lot. It’s also beautifully composed and has some shining moments. I give this one 3.5 out of 5 stars.