I am a huge fan of P.T. Anderson--have been since I first saw There Will Be Blood and was further swayed by Magnolia. He has a hypnotic way of drawing you in and keeping your attention as things swirl out of control. And so when I saw previews for The Master, it only took me one look into Joaquin's manic gaze before I knew I had to see it.
"If you figure out a way to live without a master, any master, be sure to let the rest of us know, for you would be the first in the history of the world."
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Freddie Quell, the enigmatic troublemaker that stumbles his way into Lancaster Dodd's (Philip Seymour Hoffman) world, secret elixirs in-hand. But even here, so close to the beginning, we come to an impass: who is really the star of this film? Both actors give phenomenal performances, not to mention Amy Adams finding ways to shine in the unenviable role of the submissive wife. But the film itself can't seem to decide who exactly this movie is about. There has been controversy over the topic of the film since it is based loosely on the life of Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard--but it doesn't tread past the ankles in anything worth mentioning. You see some sides of Dodd that make you think he isn't as supremely confident as he would like to think, and sometimes in those same scenes, you see Freddie has similar doubts. The movie teeters on the edge of climax, making you think something explosive will happen at any moment due to the volatile nature of Freddie--yet the end scene plays out and the only thing it made me wonder is if Lancaster was trying to hide his love for Freddie. Still, this movie has a lot going for it--P.T. has a great visual style with gorgeous shots and detailed scenes. I especially enjoyed the period-piece clothing choices and color palette. I just wish it was more cohesive, which sounds strange coming from me.