During the Milwaukee Film Fest I managed to squeeze Oscar hopeful The Master in to a little break I had between festival films.
The Master is about Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) a returning vet from WWII who is lost in the real world. His main specialty is making alcohol out of whatever ingredients he can find. One night after a drunken binge he ends up on a boat belonging to Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who is the leader of a movement called The Cause. The Master as Dodd likes to be called takes Freddie under his wing and teaches him about the cause and how it can help him become a better man. Dodd seems to think if he can fix Freddie it will validate the cause. At first Freddie falls under his spell but things change and Freddie doesn't know what to think.
Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will be Blood, Magnolia) has made another beautifully filmed and well acted movie. He seems to have great skill in making a movie just look great and bringing great performances out of actors. While a lot of talk has deservedly been given to Phoenix and Hoffman for their performances the one performance that really blew me away was Amy Adams as Dodd's wife. I hope she gets a best supporting actress nomination for the performance.
As far as the story goes the movie is similar to other Paul Thomas Anderson movies in that it's really good up until at the end. He seems to have a problem coming to a conclusion with his movies. Like There Will be Blood the end jumps some time into the future to a final confrontation between the two that seems to come out of the blue. But also like There Will be Blood the final confrontation is riveting even if it doesn't make much sense in the context of the entire movie. This was one of those movies that I left trying to figure out what to make of the movie.
Of course the most talk about the movie has been the Scientology connection. While it appears The Cause has a lot of similarities to Scientology the movie is not about that. The movie is not about The Cause it is about the two men.
Overall 4/5 Great performances but ending felt a little confused.