Like most of his films (There Will Be Blood) writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest, The Master, seems to bring out a love it or hate it reaction in moviegoers. Some reviewers and fans describe it as “smart and solidly engrossing,” or as a “challenging film for serious audiences.” Personally, this reviewer can’t remember being this bored at a film.
Yes, there is some wonderful acting, especially from Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and some impressive visuals. But never have I so desired a film to end, and it goes on for well over two hours.
Phoenix plays a mentally disturbed WW II navy vet with a disturbing habit of beating people up. He falls in with a charismatic leader played by Hoffman. Supposedly, he’s modelled on Ron Hubbard, who started the scientology church, or cult. Hoffman plays him as an unscrupulous meanie dispensing crackpot ideas and plans. His followers, with Phoenix the most unfortunate of them, rever him as a visionary, but at times it is all just too bizarre.
There’s one sequence where Hoffman is singing and dancing while his devotees join in, with all the women in the nude and the men fully dressed. Or is Phoenix’s character just imagining this? Hard to tell and after awhile, you don’t care.
There’s not much story, no likable characters or character development, and generous slices of explicit sex. Hoffman and Phoenix’s attraction to each other is a mystery. For this reviewer it was long stretches of boredom interspersed with periods of irritation.
Rating: one deer out of five
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Alf Cryderman is a Red Deer freelance writer and old movie buff.