Reviews for Master

Video Librarian Reviews
Paul Thomas Anderson's audacious character study begins in the South Pacific at the conclusion of WWII, with Navy seaman Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) indulging his quirky psychosexual obsession, masturbating to a huge female torso sculpted in the wet sand. Freddie is a volatile, demented drunkard, drifting from job to job, until he manages to stumble aboard an elegant yacht bound for New York from San Francisco via the Panama Canal. Here he meets Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a charismatic charlatan who presents himself as an erudite philosopher/guru. Dodd is the leader of a cult named The Cause, which uses a manipulative hypnosis "processing" technique to purge troubling memories so that members can theoretically gain control over self-destructive impulses, cure physical ailments, and purify their immortal souls. Quell becomes a devoted follower but harbors such anguish--and anger--that he eventually alienates everyone in the close-knit community, even Dodd's empathetic wife (Amy Adams). Anderson has meticulously crafted this visually stunning, intellectually provocative, yet often plodding period piece that is obviously inspired by L. Ron Hubbard and his Church of Scientology (although many spiritual and religious movements exploring the human potential took root during the post-war 1950s). Punctuated by a discordant score from Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, The Master is an uneven film that benefits from its three Oscar-nominated performances by Phoenix, Hoffman, and Adams. Recommended. (S. Granger)Copyright Video Librarian Reviews 2011.