After listening to everyone pre-heap praise on The Master, and sitting through a rant of Touré extolling its many virtues… I knew I was going to see it. After all, “It’s going to be nominated for a bunch of Oscars.” A seminal film, with performances of a lifetime - they told me. Just wait ‘til you see Philip Seymour Hoffman! Joaquin Phoenix is amazing! Amy Adams like you’ve never seen her before!
How could I not go see it? I considered paying $20 for the ticket, just to show them I appreciated the opportunity!
Well let me tell you, I did go see it. And I want $50 back.
Touré! Touré! How could you smile and sell me this bag of beans? Oh there were performances, alright. Amy Adams stared straight into the camera, and proved she doesn’t have pores. Joaquin Phoenix challenged Clint Eastwood’s pant-altitude. And Philip Seymour Hoffman showed that when called upon, he can play a character that is kind of like - but definitely isn’t - L. Ron Hubbard.
There was no crescendo. It started with some great cinematography, and then left a gaping hole in the experience. Plots didn’t connect, performances didn’t connect, I sat for more than 90 minutes before I realized: Nothing. Was going. To happen.
Phoenix’s role as damaged (and demented) Freddie Quell was discomforting. Not because it it was a stark look into post-traumatic stress syndrome, or because it was a man in need of help, not faith - but because the character wasn’t built into enough dimensions for me to care.
It seems that people got so swept up in the “fact” that they were making an Oscar-worthy movie… they forgot to make it Oscar-worthy.
The plot wanders and dies. And as much as I like Hoffman as an actor, even his charisma can’t save this ship from sinking. The only person that deserves credit is Mihai Malaimare Jr., who almost fools you into enjoying this flim with his beautiful imagery. His shots of the Navy men on their ships, and the “sessions” between Hoffman and Phoenix are gorgeous. But the script is too thin to do his pictures justice.
Now this isn’t to say The Master is boring - in fact, there were so many scenes that felt jarring, I’m not sure one could be completely bored. The character of Freddie Quell specifically - is far too unbalanced to allow for such a thing. Too often, though - scenes started to feel heavy-handed. Late in the movie it started to feel like every scene was between fifteen and seventy-five percent too long. I just don’t see how this movie could garner acclaim, and I dare anybody to try explain to me the “artistry” of Amy Adams giving Philip Seymour Hoffman a handy-snack in the bathroom. Which was a classic case of: What are they… Is she? Oh, they are. Oh, oh no. Ugh. Why?
This movie’s downfall is the fact that while the actors showed real commitment, the writer and director did not. Lancaster Dodd is never unpacked, we get no real explanation of his “earlier work” (the science fiction) and we get no idea of what comes next (the cult-like religion). The vague allusions to “the cause” and the trepidation around actually portraying Hubbard himself leave the entire experience far too flimsy to enjoy. Honest to God, the only real high point was seeing that Landry from Friday Night Lights is getting big roles. Plemons, playing Hoffman’s son has the most honest line of the entire movie. “He’s making it up as he goes along.” Which - by the time it was delivered, rang true to just about everyone in the theater.
I understand that art is subjective - and in cast you can’t tell, this is my first movie review ever. It’s not what I’m here to do, and it won’t be something you see from me often. But I needed to take a stand. The Master isn’t enjoyable and it isn’t good. And you shouldn’t spend money on it unless you’re aware that you may very well be wasting that time and money. I verbally accosted Touré as soon as he got to work after seeing this movie. Not because he’s responsible for me seeing it, but because anybody out there saying it’s amazing, clearly has some kind of ulterior motive. Or they’re in on a joke that everyone is playing on me. Or you’re too afraid to say you hated it. Or I only saw the outtakes. Something.
Hell, maybe I just don’t know what I’m talking about. See it for yourself and decide. But I wish I saw Looper.