A Masterful Mirage

When celebrated director Paul Thomas Anderson was developing “The Master” we all thought he was finally going to unravel and shed some light in to the madness that is Scientology. But what Anderson in fact developed was a character study of the two men on two sides of the same coin.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Freddy, a WW2 navy vet and drunk that develops his own form of moonshine with really anything alcoholic he can gets his hands on. One batch of Freddy’s moonshine poisons a man to death. While on the run, Freddy encounters Lancaster Dodds (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) after during a drunken stupor stows away aboard Lancaster’s luxury yacht.

Lancaster is a visionary who through suggested hypnosis and thought projection claims to heal his ‘patients’. After he tastes Freddy’s latest concoction, Lancaster thinks Freddy may aid him in expanding his mind.

These two men are basically the same man except opposite. Lancaster is an intellectual, Freddy isn’t. Lancaster is in control, Freddy is not. Lancaster isn’t aggressive, Freddy is. Etc, etc. If you will, they complete each other.

Aside from the deep, deafening character study and engaging performances from Hoffman and Phoenix, “The Master” has nothing left to offer. The meandering direction, silly wide shots, umpteen lulls make this a movie you can take a nap in without any problem.

PTA tries to shock and awe us with the third act twist. But by then it is just way, way too late. This is the weakest of PTA’s work and a real letdown.

2 out of 5

 So Says the Soothsayer

-Movie Madness #178-

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