The Master

Rated: R

        Before going to see this film I had heard on one of the nightly entertainment shows that the director and writer Paul Thomas Anderson had modeled Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character on the late L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology and that the film itself was a sort of homage to the birth of Scientology. I had already planned to see this movie before hearing that, but that just gave me another reason. I don't really know anything about Scientology and thought this movie would shed a little light on it for me. I was wrong.
         There was little to no dialogue for the first twenty minutes or so as we meet Freddy Quell (played by Joaquin Phoenix), making his way through the last of WWII on a Navy ship, and back to civilian life. These first scenes are littered with Freddy making “liquor” out of anything he can, (including paint thinner and photo development chemicals) and weird sexual acts, thus setting the uncomfortable and odd tone for the rest of the movie.
        Freddy moves through life in a drunken, emotionally damaged stupor, moving from place to place and job to job. After being run off his last job he wanders aimlessly, until happening upon a cruise ship with a party going on. The host of the party is Lancaster Dodd (played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and the guests are his followers; followers of The Cause.  Freddy stumbles onto the ship only looking for some easy drinks and food, but finds much more. Dodd, upon meeting Freddy, is instantly taken by the amount of help this lost soul needs. He sees in him not only a protégé, but also a guinea pig to prove his methods right. Dodd agrees to let Freddy stay on as a sailor as long as Freddy will help him with his research. After years of “the follower and the master” type of a relationship we're left in the end to wonder if Dodd did indeed have any power and influence on Freddy, or if he was too far gone for help.
         This movie was truly a showcase for the talents of the actors in it. Joaquin Phoenix seemed to become Freddy. Not only was he a bit hunched, but he lost quite a bit of weight, to the point that he looked very sickly with sunken eyes and cheeks. Phillip Seymour Hoffman was adept as Lancaster Dodd, The Master; although I don't really feel like this character was a stretch for him. Amy Adams broadened her horizon's from her usual romantic comedies with this role, which she performed better than I've ever seen her.
        That being said, I'd say to save your money for a different option. This movie left me with many feelings. I felt confused as to what point the writer/director was trying to make. I felt unsure about how Dodd and Freddy ended things. I felt disgusted and uncomfortable at the number of fart jokes thrown into such serious subject matter and the references to incest. I felt bewildered about how I was supposed to feel about the characters. But most of all I felt let down, in the sense that I'd paid good money to see this movie. In the end, this film is just another of those that will leave you scratching your head and wondering what these people were thinking.
The Master  is rated R, was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and stars Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams . Its available now on Blu Ray, DVD and digital download.