The Master

New on DVD: The Master – A Well Done but Odd Little Movie

The Master

“The Master” is a funny little movie. It took me a while to get into it, but there’s no denying that it’s a well-done film with some major stars that scored multiple Oscar nominations:

  • Joaquin Phoenix for Best Actor in a Leading Role
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Amy Adams for Best Actress in a Supporting Role

The film also received three Golden Globes Nominations: Best Actor in a Drama for Joaquin Phoenix, Best Supporting Actor for Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Best Supporting Actress for Amy Adams.

But it’s such an odd movie, and I wonder if it just didn’t resonate with audiences, and maybe that’s why it didn’t do better during this past awards season. I have to admit, along with the great cast, I was also interested in seeing it for the Scientology connection. Director Paul Thomas Anderson even screened it for Tom Cruise.

The MasterIt’s great to see Joaquin Phoenix back on screen again. The story follows his character Freddie Quell, an ex-naval officer suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and more than a few sexual peculiarities.

Gaunt and tightly wound, since returning home from World War II, Freddie has had difficulty holding down a job due to his hot temper and affinity for paint thinner-spiked potions.

But when he crosses paths with the charismatic Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the two form a father-son type bond. Lancaster, who has a few sexual peculiarities of his own, welcomes Freddie to join the Cause, a movement not dissimilar to Scientology in that it focuses on the elimination of past trauma through a pseudo-psychoanalytic exercise called processing.

If Lancaster provides Quell with a surrogate family, his loyal wife (Amy Adams) and cynical son (Jesse Plemons) are a bit more skeptical. While participating in their rituals, Quell sails with the group from San Francisco to Pennsylvania, but does he really believe, or is he just going through the motions because it’s the best thing he’s got going?

“The Master” was photographed in 65mm, which gives it a sort of dreamy, past-life like aura. The performances from all the actors is brilliant, especially Phoenix, who is, as ever, riveting with his ever-present sneer, thanks to a well-placed scar on his upper lip.

Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD special features include: “Back Beyond” which features outtakes and additional scenes edited to music by Johnny Greenwood; “Unguided Message,” an 8 minute short / behind the scenes; Teasers/ Trailers.  The Combo Pack also includes an additional special feature “Let There Be Light (1946), John Huston’s landmark documentary about WW-II veterans.”

Have you seen “The Master”? What’d you think of it? 


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