The Master ★★★★½

Where have we met before?
-Lancaster Dodd

I knew going into the film that it's received mixed reactions and was determined not to give Paul Thomas Anderson a free pass. I was going to recognize the film's faults and call them out damn it! Yeah well... it didn't really work out that way. The closest thing I see as a fault is that the surface narrative is misleadingly simplistic to the point where some might be fooled into thinking that hardly anything actually happens in the film. To use a cliched line and sound corny on top of it... what you see on the surface is only the tip of the iceberg.

While it's well known at this point that The Master was inspired by Scientology and it's founder L. Ron Hubbard, the film itself is hardly that straightforward. It's a PT Anderson film after all. If I started on my interpretations on some of the film's key scenes I would end up writing something the size of a book instead of a review (like I've done for other films) and besides the next person will probably interpret everything quite differently. To put it mildly there is a lot going on underneath the surface.

Joaquin Phoenix gives the best performance of his career. I say that without having seen I'm Still Here, but somehow I'm not worried about that. Philip Seymour Hoffman is the charismatic titular character in a role that feels tailor made for him. These two performances alone make the film a must-see, everything from the dynamic of their relationship to what it all means. It also has to be mentioned that Amy Adams plays a subtle but integral role to it all as well, and continues to prove she is anything but a one-note actress.

If I start talking about the directing, cinematography and overall production I'll come off as an Anderson fanboy. While other directors seem to have faltered and lost their way over the last few years, Anderson has been perfecting his craft and it's my opinion he has very little left to improve upon.

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