The Master

“I’m not even sure how to write this one. I include Paul Thomas Anderson on my list of demigods. I dont worship him as much as I do Quentin Tarantino, but he’s on the next tier. Magnolia is one of my all time favorite movies. Really, Magnolia is reason enough to wanna see everything this man has ever made. Toss There Will Be Blood into the mix, and I’m salivating just thinking of work from this man. Unfortunately, there’s a couple of downsides to this. One is that it means I go into his movies with unreasonably high expectations. The other is that I forget that Anderson’s work takes time to process (no pun intended for those who have seen The Master).

I was kinda disappointed at first that I wasn’t quite getting this movie, but then I remembered that’s how it typically goes. I did not enjoy …Blood on the first viewing. I’d especially thought the I drink your milkshake scene was dumb. But after chewing on it for a while, I absolutely love that movie, and that scene in particular is iconic. Hell, I even have a tshirt with those lines on it. As far as Magnolia, I do remember being struck by it immediately, but it wasn’t until reflecting on it today that I realized I really did not understand half of it. I did think the whole everyone-is-connected thing was incredible, but I’d missed most of the coincidence thing (even though that frames the film) and I had no \m/ clue what was up with the frogs. My point is, it’s not without precendence for me to miss the point of a PT Anderson movie, at first.

The Master is sorta known as the Scientology movie that’s not really about Scientology. What I mean by that is that it’s about an organization, The Cause that has more than coincidental similarities to some of our favorite Hollywood stars’ belief system of choice. Our lost soul, Joaquin Phoenix, finds his way to our L Ron Hubbard type, Philip Seymour Hoffman, a writer/scientist/doctor/leader of the masses. It took a while to get there. A LOT of time was spent in establishing our lost soul as being incredibly lost. But we were also establishing that this clearly is PT Anderson film. I got more invested in it once we started to see inside The Cause. But even then, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

While I may not be too sure of what profound meaning was behind everything, what was undeniable was the incredible performances. No surprise that Hoffman was phenomenal. That man can do no wrong in my eyes. He’s someone whose Academy Award I consider to be an award for his career, not a specific performance. This movie is further proof he deserves it. But the one I was really struck by was Phoenix, particularly with his physicality. Between the weight loss and the slouch he was an entirely different person than I remember him as. Granted, my strongest memory of him is from Gladiator. Here he was also someone you felt sympathic for and disgusted by, a very delicate balance. Amy Adams also turned in an against type performance. I’m so used to seeing her as cute and bubbly, not reserved and serious. It was interesting, and I loved watching her.

Still, I’m not quite sure what to make of this movie. Today I think it was slow and drawn out. Maybe in a few days or after another viewing I’ll see it’s subtle brilliance that I love about Anderson. Here’s hoping.

The Master – \m/ \m/ \m/

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