Film Review: The Master
by Matthew Durham

I have written about this film a couple times primarily about its expected success during Award Season. So I finally got to see it and unfortunately I left the movie theater utterly disappointed. The story is about a man named Freddie Quell (played marvelously by Joaquin Phoenix) who becomes associated with an obsessive  author named Lancaster Dodd (also marvelously played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman) who has created a movement or perhaps cult called “The Cause.”

The film is directed by the incredibly talented Paul Thomas Anderson, three other films I’ve seen from him include: Boogie Nights, Punch Drunk Love, and There Will Be Blood. I think all of these films are good, but none of them are perfect, The Master being the worst of the bunch. This is the kind of film that you can’t go in with your brain turned off. You have two interesting characters whose actions you have to psycho-analyze every step in order to remotely understand what the film is about.

This is a relationship movie, clearly. The critics have been fairly split on the film, and I’m mixed myself. This is not one of those reviews where I say the fans “fell for it.” There is nothing to fall for, you simply either like this kind of movie or you don’t. I am indifferent, my biggest problem being that I felt the films message about 30 to 40 minutes in, I was hoping for a more satisfying conclusion and it was only partially satisfying.

There Will Be Blood for me was to long, I got the point early on but while being bored I was amazingly struck with a strong satisfying conclusion. If I am watching a movie for over two hours, I want a more satisfying conclusion. So overall I can say I understand that Paul Thomas Anderson will have his fans, and his fans will more than likely be satisfied. In this instance, Anderson has failed to convert me to enjoying this movie.

Is it because I didn’t get it? No, I got it. Is it because the film wasn’t original? It was original. Is it because it wasn’t well made? Nope, very well made with great Production Design and Cinematography. It was simply because the story wasn’t engaging enough, and a lot of unnecessary material was left in the final cut. It was only when I left the theater that I realized that I have never ‘loved’ a Paul Thomas Anderson film, that I have just liked them all, and this one will join them.

A Director’s job is to guide the actors to the best of their abilities, to take charge of the production, to develop the shots which will later be perfected by the DP, and to get the film done. Paul Thomas Anderson has done this job perfectly and it reflects in the fantastic performance. What I am saying is Paul Thomas Anderson works better as a Director than a Writer and I would love to see him direct someone else’s material for a change.

Final Score: 3/5