I wasn’t really too keen to watch The Master, but my husband persuaded me to come along as he’s a huge fan of P. T. Anderson, the film’s director. Well, it proved one of those films I was glad I’d seen, but which I probably won’t want to see again.
The acting, to start with the best, is simply stupendous. Joaquin Phoenix stars as an alcohol- and sex-addicted WWII veteran who, while drifting, comes upon the company of Lancaster Dodd, self-proclaimed healer, who adopts him as a kind of pet project and attempts to heal him by initiating him into his strange program of self-search. Phoenix is simply amazing as the impulse-driven yet sly drunkard. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Dodd with great charisma and enough meanness and brutality just under the surface to make him menacing, yet the crown of malevolence goes to Amy Adams, who plays Dodd’s wife and the eminence grise behind his success with chilling perfection.
The images of the film work great, too. The 1950s atmosphere is captured with great love of detail (Amy Adams’ maternity dresses alone are worth the price of the ticket), and I loved the lighting and camera angles.
But. After about half-way through, the movie slows down, and never really gains speed again (in spite of a motorbike race in the desert). I accept that the director felt it necessary to show how gruelling and manipulative Dodd’s sessions with the veteran are, but I lost interest with the characters at that point. The ending is rather meh, too, as I don’t really understand one characters motives for acting as he does all of a sudden. But what annoyed me most in retrospect is that all main characters in this movie were Larger-Than-Life in a major way, and this made them impossible to relate to, and prevented any real change in any of them. So the film is really just a psychogram of two concepts, not a story about people. Considering that Anderson is really good as telling filmic stories about people, as proven in Magnolia among others, is is a bit of a shame.
If you are considering to watch the movie: It’s well worth it, be it just for the actors’ perfomances. But this is a movie I’m definitely not getting the DVD of.
- Rike Horstmann