Phenomenal Acting In "The Master"
By Ryan J. Beard
Sep 26, 2012 - 8:50:33 PM

LOS ANGELES—"The Master" is the story of a deranged and alcoholic World War II vet (Joaquin Phoenix) and his relationship with a spiritual leader dubbed cult leader by some (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). The film is written by and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who is also known for “There Will Be Blood” and “Punch Drunk Love.” Similar to “There Will Be Blood,” “The Master” has beautiful, rich, dark tones and the story line develops slowly with plenty of dialogue. The films score by Jonny Greenwood is beautiful and as erratic as Joaquin Phoenix’s volatile character, keeping viewer’s emotions on edge. The highlight of the film, however, is the phenomenal acting of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix.


The film's protagonist, Freddie Quell, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is a volatile and damaging alcoholic who seems to be experiencing severe post traumatic stress disorder after returning from the war. By chance, he falls into the hands of Lancaster Dodd, The Master, leader of The Cause, a faith based organization with cult like rituals. As Lancaster Dodd and his followers stride to help Freddie, Freddie begins to question the validity of the organization and its beliefs. At the end of the film, the viewer is left to question whether or not The Master’s domineering spiritual leadership helped or hurt Freddie Quell, or whether he was a lost cause all along.


Despite unbelievable acting and beautiful writing, the film will leave you feeling heavy in your seat, as you ponder about the nature of humanity. The Master is not a “feel good” movie, nor was it intended to be. Freddie Quells character shows little improvement from the beginning of the film to the end. He remains a very dark character throughout the film. His actions during the present time within the movie provide little reason to root for his well-being, however the brief glimpse into his past, and his love with Doris, provides a string of hope to hold onto. Yet, as an audience we are never offered the redemption we yearn for. The film is simply a glimpse into the life of an indifferent, depressed, and deranged man struggling to live.



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