This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Cappie’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
NOTE: This is kind of all over the place. This isn't a review, just a huge brain dump. I'm also sorry if you are offended, nothing is meant in an offensive way.
Everybody will approach this film differently, I don't think there is any right or wrong opinion or view on this film. I've spent the last hour reading great reviews, gushing reviews, that have different thoughts on the film than I. I'm sure I'll read dozens more opinion pieces on the film.
I'm not a religious man. I've never thought there was some mystical guy in the sky. It just isn't something I've bought into. However I've never disregarded those that do, I see why they need it and the good it can have. I've seen it help friends, and I thank it for that. But it just isn't for me.
I remember a quote… 'Religion is a tool for the weak to control the strong'. Whilst perhaps not accurate in this day and age, it seems quite accurate of days gone by. The days in which The Master is set. As soon as I exited the cinema this is where my thoughts led me, to this quote. I don't know where it is from or why I have it in my head, but it is there and it is the first that came up in reflecting on this film.
Lancaster Dodd, whilst being an enigmatic genius, is also a very weak man. He can give a big rousing speech, but when it comes to defending himself, his views, he is easily offended and quickly resorts to petty name calling. This is evident in the John Moore scene and even the arrest… "Let them do their job, their stupid job". He is also easily manipulated by his wife and family. During the dinner scene you can tell that he is uncomfortable, but Freddie isn't a disciple, he is a friend and he stands his ground. But in the end he backs down, giving Freddie the ending ultimatum. He is the weak from the quote.
Freddie on the other hand is strong, the strong from the quote. Whilst I get a feeling a lot would disagree, to me he is very much a man of strong mind. He may be troubled, a little lost and a drunk, but he is still strong. Aside from the post-prison cleansing, there is never a time that Freddie buys into The Cause. Everything he does he does for favour. He makes booze, gets a job in return. And it continues as the film goes. He moves from job to job because he doesn't know who he is yet, he is curious and that curiosity lands him at The Cause. Because he is strong he is never fully controlled, hence The Cause eventually banish him because he couldn't commit.
By the end he knows he doesn't need The Cause. Whilst he is still a lost soul, he at least dealt with his issues and is ready to move forward. Early in the film he was drinking to dull the pain, but at the end of the film he is drinking for pleasure of it. He genuinely likes the British girl, I think that is why it is followed by the image of him laying peacefully with the sand woman. He has fucked her, destroyed her but now he just wants to lay with her.
The film is brilliant and the most absorbed I've been in one of PTA's films. The ending is a touch too empty for me, so it loses half a star. I like thinking about films, but the ending was so empty that he leaves you clutching at straws.
I look forward to re-visiting it, one of 2012's best.