After the horrors of World War II, I’ve got to believe people everywhere were asking questions. Maybe questions like, ‘How do we get back on track after such a massive loss of life?’ Or, ‘How can we maximize our own lives?’ When people listen intently for life’s answers, sometimes strange voices grow louder. Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is the very personification of such a voice. His family & followers refer to him as ‘Master.’ The year: 1950. The world seemed aching to move forward. Sensing to fill a void in John Q. Public’s soul, Dodd manifests his teachings in the form of his first self-help book, “The Cause.” Once the book is ‘out there,’ it’s up for debate amongst scholars & skeptics. I believe, Lancaster Dodd’s only tangible power comes from his ability to hold court anywhere, anytime. On a yacht, in a desert & especially during his intense ‘Thought Processing’ therapy sessions. This is the crux of The Cause’ movement. These one-on-one sessions include, past life regression, childhood traumatic events, recounts of incest & lovers lost. Why do so many followers engage? They seek answers.
Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a World War II Veteran who now, in the time of peace, has become an aimless drifter. Phoenix is the engine that drives ‘The Master.’ His physicality, dedication & execution of the role rivals that of Daniel Day Lewis, respectively. You simply cannot take your eyes off Freddie. It’s a million little things like his peculiar arm position in his unique stance. His gravely voice, twisted facial expressions & far away stare. Is it all a dream? Is his real? Is everything he’s ever felt & known real or blurred forever by the teachings of The Master?
I enjoyed watching “The Master.” Writer/Director Paul Thomas Anderson makes bold choices. The story does however bob and weave into the strangest places. I would gladly trade some structure fluidity for incredible scenes. There are too many to count. Notably, every scene between Lancaster and his devoted wife Peggy. (Amy Adams) For me, the heart of the movie are the conversations between Freddie & The Master. What’s their dynamic? Why are they compelled to forge forward in their odd relationship? What is Lancaster Dodd after? What’s Freddie agenda? The answers are all there, but you get the opportunity to answer them yourself. “The Master” is rated ‘R.’
Creators of certain suspicious religions want you to follow them to the four corners of the Earth. Not me. Just follow me on Twitter @leoquinones