The Master (2012)
October 29, 2020 6:07 PM - Subscribe

A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future - until he is tantalized by the Cause and its charismatic leader.

Wikipedia's intro:
The Master is a 2012 American psychological drama film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. It tells the story of Freddie Quell (Phoenix), a World War II navy veteran struggling to adjust to a post-war society, who meets Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), a leader of a religious movement known as "The Cause". Dodd sees something in Quell and accepts him into the movement. Freddie takes a liking to The Cause and begins traveling with Dodd's family along the East Coast to spread his teachings.

[...] The film's inspirations were varied: it was partly inspired by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, as well as by early drafts of Anderson's There Will Be Blood, the novel V. by Thomas Pynchon, drunken navy stories that Jason Robards had told to Anderson as he was terminally ill while filming Magnolia, and the life story of author John Steinbeck. The Master was shot almost entirely on 65mm film stock, making it the first fiction feature to be shot and released in 70 mm since Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet in 1996.
PTA has said this is his favorite of the films he has made.

Longtime Scientology watcher Tony Ortega in two posts looks at the movie's relationship to Scientology.

Ebert only gave it two and a half stars and isn't sure what to make of it: Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" is fabulously well-acted and crafted, but when I reach for it, my hand closes on air. It has rich material and isn't clear what it thinks about it. It has two performances of Oscar caliber, but do they connect? Its title character is transparently inspired by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, but it sidesteps any firm vision of the cult religion itself — or what it grew into.

The New Yorker's reviewer was much more definitive with his praise for the entire movie and its themes.

A review discussing the movie and Scientology.

Vulture examines five possible themes of the movie.

Trailer #1 [yt] and Trailer #2 [yt]

Poster's thought:
The United States after WWII under the surface had all kinds of interesting people like L. Ron Hubbard, people who had ideas about things like Hubbard's "modern science of mental health." Norman Vincent Peale was touting "the power of positive thinking." In more Christian spheres, Billy Graham was crossing the country filling arenas for his crusades. Americans were hungry for something and there were plenty of people with something to offer.

This movie for me really does a great job of capturing that atmosphere. Joaquin is just great as Quill the man who is looking for something, anything, that will give his life some meaning or direction. Maybe he isn't even looking, but surfs along whatever wave he finds himself on. Hoffman is great as Dodd. He is magnetic in this movie and brings to life a character who could fill a room with his personality. And Amy Adams just shines through in everything she is in. Her character watches with suspicion as Dodd and Quill engage in their relationship and its ups and downs.
posted by Fukiyama (6 comments total)
It's been so long since I've seen it (home rental) and I didn't care for the movie that much. But that processing scene with Hoffman and Phoenix was absolutely mesmerizing. Truly a masterclass.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 7:16 PM on October 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

This movie pissed me off and I couldn't finish it, which pissed me off even more. I'm sure my love for PTA magnified my ire, but it just felt like he was taunting the audience, constantly refusing to make a watchable movie, on purpose. He did something magical where after about the first 15 minutes I could not find a reason to keep watching no matter how hard I tried, every line made it worse and worse, yet it took me like another half-hour before I turned it off. No other movie has ever had this effect on me and so I have to respect that and maybe even give it a 9 out of 10.
posted by rhizome at 6:46 PM on October 30, 2020

Was it a specific character? The general tone? Themes?
posted by Fukiyama at 8:48 PM on October 30, 2020

I do like the early scene where Quell is hounded off the farm, the way the insistent accusation turns everyone against him, and there's a little bit of exploration of that, the power of repetition to create something... but I lost the thread somewhere in the second half of the movie. Maybe I can see the titular Master's motorcycle 'escape' as escaping from the repetition of the life he'd made.
posted by fleacircus at 12:29 PM on October 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

I love a lot things in this film, the cinematography, many of the performances, the whole weird subplot about Quell's moonshine but the whole thing seems unfocused and lacks any kind of point-of-view.
posted by octothorpe at 10:21 AM on November 1, 2020

Was it a specific character? The general tone? Themes?

So I finally rewatched this, and it wasn't so awful this time around! The last time it certainly was Quell who annoyed me, like how is this person even in society? [thatsthejoke.jpg] I just couldn't. get. past. him, and that last viewing (Netflix showed me I turned it off 2/3 through) was more uncomfortable for me than the party scene in "Greenberg." The only other movie in recent memory I've turned off in this way was "Dinner for Schmucks."

But however it happened, maybe it's just a headspace thing, I think I got the hook this time. I'm pretty bad about recounting plots, but his relationship with and the coercion by the Dodds was more stark, which makes a big difference, and that Quell was more broken than helpless. The question of how willingly Quell participates in his exploitation kept occurring to me and gets vaguer and vaguer as the movie proceeds. I'll vote for him surfing more than searching.

The whole moonshine chapter is pretty great, and I really liked how it opens with the manual cabbage harvesting. Someone on its Talk page on Wikipedia raises the idea that it's a movie about alcoholism, which is interesting.
posted by rhizome at 1:25 PM on April 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

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