Vince The Cinephile’s review published on Letterboxd:
(Every PTA feature feels like a chore to me. Anyways it took 2 days for me to ponder and write my personal thoughts about this film. Here's my first take on it.)
It's difficult to analyze what Paul Thomas Anderson is trying to say in his films, but I guess for now I just want to interpret The Master as a beautifully-looking, deep, enigmatic character study. The film gives a spotlight (or maybe scrutiny) against some false religions and its arbitrary effects on its followers (for Freddie's case, there's no effect). I admire how every scene is so crucial and everything on it has something to say in terms of human condition. Btw, the cinematography is breathtaking.
If I'm having a difficult time dissecting PTA's closed-off narrative, I'm more easily drawn to its stupendous acting. I mean, the trifecta of sterling performances of Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and the great Philip Seymour Hoffman literally floored me. Phoenix is ever-brilliant in his unsettling, soul-baring performance as the drunk, unpredictable Freddie Quell. His affecting tears in some scenes feels they came out of nowhere and it's very brilliant. Amy Adams is terrific as The Master's iron lady. That great handjob scene made me both unease and terrified. While it's Philip Seymour Hoffman's charismatic performance totally intrigued me for many reasons. Lancaster Dodd is a seriously fucked-up character and Hoffman provided lots of shades through his terrific vocal command and restraint which I think is very commendable. Hoffman owned Dodd, and it definitely stands along his other great screen performances. Overall, it's a pretty interesting, challenging flick to digest (like every other PTA films), but I will absolutely re-watch this film at some time to have a better sense of it.