ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Master Fails to Enlighten

Updated on September 29, 2012
The Master
The Master | Source

The newest film by director Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master, is an unintentionally messy jumble of ideas with no coherent direction. As is true for his overrated Boogie Nights, the director assumes the audience is going to care about the film because Mr. Anderson is an auteur.

A major problem throughout the film is that it tries to carry two, strong main characters. It fails to make either The Master played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, or his protege Freddie Quell, played by Joaquin Phoenix, compelling. Both characters are angry buffoons, The Master being the more clever of the two. A little more history of The Master and his cult might have helped us care.

The character of The Master (Lancaster Dodd) is a combination of Ernest Hemingway and L. Ron Hubbard. Sounds interesting, right? Nope. We start off with an enigmatic macho man at the beginning of the film, but his bragging has no base in reality and fails to live up its billing. He is cruel, and while charismatic leaders can be cruel, there is little reason to follow The Master. However, Mr. Hoffman is not to blame as much as Anderson’s script. He assumes that his ideas are inherently interesting, and therefore, it is unnecessary for him to do the work of writing in a back story or compelling motives for his characters.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddie Quill, WWII vet, Schizophrenic, PTSD victim and guinea pig for The Master’s therapeutic techniques. Mr. Phoenix (with an assist from Anderson’s script) is obviously reaching for the Oscar by playing a mentally challenged character, but he misses the gold ring. Perhaps the academy will give him the nod to this "off" character as they did to Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man and Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump. But Phoenix's performance is not worthy of a top award and neither is this filmic drudgery.

The Master’s technique is a kind of regression therapy into this life and past lives, but it’s not dramatic. Even the first therapy encounter between The Master and Freddie leaves us dissatisfied. Certainly, it touches on some tragedy in Freddie’s past, but it’s all surface and leaves us wanting, like drinking salt water in the desert.

The film keeps us at a distance and we don’t care enough about what happens to the characters nor what they do. I am not suggesting we need to like the characters in a movie to enjoy them, but we do need to be moved by them emotionally as we were with the despicable oil man, Daniel Plainview, in Anderson’s last movie, There Will be Blood.

Like one of the songs featured in the movie, The Master is a “slow boat to China”, except the company you are keeping here only makes the journey seem longer and more tedious. If you were stuck on a boat with only this movie, you would be compelled to jump overboard. At least while waiting for this slow boat to end, I could appreciate the Oscar worthy fifties' costumes in the movie.

The movie tries to do too much and accomplishes little. I kept hoping after the beginning of the third act that each scene would be the end of the movie. Hoping a movie will end while watching it in a theater is never a good sign.

Rating: Rental

Those interested in psychological drama and the acting of Hoffman or Phoenix, or Amy Adams for that matter, will find something enjoyable in this film. For everyone else, rent Anderson’s best and only unequivocally good movie, There Will Be Blood.

Ratings system from best to worst:

5. Pay full price, see it twice
4. Full Price
3. Matinee
2. Rental
1. See it only if they pay you

Peace,
Tex Shelters


Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • texshelters profile imageAUTHOR

      texshelters 

      6 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

      Thanks. Yes, they have both done well in the past, especially Hoffman. But the movie is a real "Slow Boat to China".

      PTxS

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 

      6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Tex....I respect your opinion and am truly grateful for this well-written critique of "The Master." I never actually "go to the movie theater" but instead, wait for the DVD......so, I'll have a bit of time to collect many opinions and personal views of the movie.

      And with all due respect......I must tell you that it is not possible for me to believe that ANY movie with 2 of the most fabulous actors ever....Philip and Joaquin....could be anything but totally fantastic off the charts....I adore them both......so I will forgive anything...UP++

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)