The Master ★★★½

I've always hated the expression "arthouse". This is what this film is tagged with incessantly. Paul Thomas Anderson may well be an auteur who makes clever,thought provoking movies that delve into serious themes of greed,guilt,religion or whatever, but what really is an "arthouse" film? Is it a film that only appeals to a certain section of society? I've got to be honest and say I don't know.
What I do know is that yes The Master won't appeal to everyone. My wife in fact was on the verge of turning the movie off until the appearance of a certain Philip Seymour Hoffman. This is a movie that has a darkness to it. Whether it be Joaquin Phoenix's Freddie's deeply disturbing psyche or "The Cause's" less than conventional teachings. It deals with a serious subject matter that at times is both disturbing and curiously hypnotic.
What this film has in abundance is quality acting. Phoenix has never been better and Philip Seymour Hoffman is consistently one of the finest actors of his generation. Phoenix's transformation into the awkward alcoholic isn't subtle. His hunched back,his hands on hips and powder-keg demeanour are impressive and intimidating. The surprise for me though and I know it shouldn't be is Amy Adams. Her performance is almost chilling and her devotion to Hoffman's Lancaster is mesmerizing. She has that cold isolated look that brings the chills. Honestly the best thing I've seen her do.
Anderson never does things by halves. From that opening sequence in There Will Be Blood to Magnolia's raining frogs he isn't afraid to push the boundaries. I may be oversimplifying his craft but I don't quite have Adam or some of the others grasp of what makes this man's films so special. I know what I like and I know what doesn't quite hit the mark for me personally. I have enjoyed all of his films to different degrees and although I enjoyed this it didn't pull me in the way his other films have. Maybe it was the fact that Phoenix's character is so repulsive and dislikeable,I don't know. As a look at America's infatuation with obscure religions and cults it delves closely towards psychological brainwashing. Again I don't know enough about Scientology to comment on numerous references to it from others but will say that Hoffman's character was very charismatic and somewhat dangerously convincing.
A fine film with stellar performances all round this does have all the usual Paul Thomas Anderson hallmarks.

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