Press-Republican

Out & About

October 25, 2012

Acting performances shine in 'Master'

Paul Thomas Anderson is a master director, but “The Master” will not be his, well, masterwork.

The film is visually brilliant and features not one, but two spectacular acting performances. It is certain to be a favorite of critics and serious film aficionados, and it’s a shoo-in for several Oscar nominations.

People looking for pure entertainment, however, will be disappointed. They’ll find “The Master” too long, too self-indulgent and a little too tedious.

Though there are peripheral characters, “The Master” is essentially a two-man show.

Joaquin Phoenix, in the performance of his life, plays volatile Freddie Quell, an alcoholic Navy veteran turned drifter, whose direction changes when he stows away on a yacht in the early 1950s.

The yacht belongs to a wealthy supporter of Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a charismatic cult leader with more than a passing resemblance to L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.

Instead of throwing Freddie overboard, Dodd takes him under his wing — as both a test subject and a protege — beginning a hypnotic and challenging relationship.

Phoenix’s Freddie is hunched over and mumbles through a crooked half smile. He’s erratic and prone to violence, but also clever and devoted.

Hoffman’s role isn’t as showy, but he gives nearly as powerful a performance. Dodd is suave, confident and playful. It’s easy to see him having a Svengali-like effect on the masses, even while his own son (Jesse Plemons) admits “He’s making all this up as he goes along.”

As interesting as the relationship of Freddie and Dodd is, though, “The Master” doesn’t lead the viewer anywhere in particular. It doesn’t really have a story in any traditional sense.

Though the film touches on religion, it doesn’t serve as any sort of rebuke or exploration of Scientology; that’s merely a framework for the two main characters to explore.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Steve Ouellette's Movie Reviews
Entertainment
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Entertainment Videos
Adam Levine Launches Clothing Line for Women Paul Wesley Sinks His Teeth Into Directing Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Josh Thompson Streams Album to Hook New Fans Franco Leads Star-studded Broadway Cast ShowBiz Minute: Singer, Young, Poehler Sparks Fly With Derulo and Jordin on New Album Nas Movie Opens Tribeca Film Festival Zooey Deschanel Adds Designing to Her Repertoire Miley Cyrus Still in Hospital, Cancels 2nd Show 'Half of a Yellow Sun' Hits the Big Screen Diaz Gets Physical for New Comedy Swift's Bus Drives Into Country Hall of Fame ShowBiz Minute: Cyrus, Walker, Combs Pedro Pascal Plays 'Game of Thrones'' Red Viper Deeley Shows Acting Chops in Hulu's 'Deadbeat' Ora Strips Efron at MTV Awards ShowBiz Minute: MTV Awards, Lopez, Royals Stars Hit Red Carpet for MTV Movie Awards Conan Backs Colbert, Hosts MTV Movie Awards
CVPH Job Opportunities