Sunday, October 07, 2012

The Master

      A master class in acting keeps you mesmerized to the screen even if the story doesn't. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams ignite the screen in Oscar worthy performances.

      Rumored to be based on L. Ron Hubbard and the early days of Scientology, the film tells the story of Lancaster Dodd, the "master" of a new movement called "The Cause".  It is a period film set shortly after the end of World War Two when America was entering into a new age of growth and enlightenment.

       Mr. Hoffman plays Dodd as an towering father figure to Mr. Phoenix's Freddie Quell, a troubled and alcoholic ex-sailor. Dodd takes Freddie under his wing and tries to "cure" Freddie's problems through "The Cause". Amy Adams co-stars as Dodd's wife, Peggy and it is a wonderful performance against type. Ms. Adams shows a depth of acting far beyond her other work. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, he brings out the best from all three of his stars as well as his supporting cast.

       The cinematography is outstanding and there are many beautifully framed and acted moments throughout the film. Mr. Anderson has crafted a fine piece of visual art but the film eventually lives and dies by the plot.  Will Freddie find salvation through "The Cause"? Will Dodd's work be recognized or reviled? The film shares some similarity to Mr. Anderson's last film, "There Will Be Blood". Both films contain scenes of shock and awe and acceptance is a very thin line. Mr. Anderson is a brilliant director but he will always polarize his audience. You will either buy into the story or not.  And if you don't, you will leave the theater feeling your time wasted. But if you do, then images of "The Master" will stay with you for a long time.

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