Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of the greatest actors in Hollywood today. His mesmerizing personality and ability to be totally absorbed by a role make him utterly watchable. In the past his talent alone has transformed mediocre efforts into masterpieces, but with writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master he has met his match. Every positive aspect of Hoffman's performance in the film is met with a basically negative reaction from the script. It is an uphill battle for Hoffman and in the end it is one he loses. The Master is a muddled mess of a movie and Hoffman's shiny performance is tarnished by the content that surrounds it.
Last year Hollywood tried to convince audiences that losers like The Artist and Tree of Life were artistic celebrations. Both of those movies failed to impress me in the least. Now they are giving us The Master -- critics groups are falling all over themselves to love it. Do not be taken in by all this praise. This is a movie that is just not entertaining.
The story concerns a cult leader of sorts named Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman). He has written a book titled The Cause and goes around the country holding sessions in which he regresses people to their past lives. He is part doctor, part writer, part psychologist and pretty much all fraud. He does tend to draw people to him like Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) a mentally fragile man who quickly becomes Dodd's adoring acolyte.
Some of the people closest to Dodd, such as his wife Peggy (Amy Adams) and his daughter Elizabeth (Ambyr Childers) do not trust Freddie. They think he is too irrational and too explosive, but Dodd seems to need him. Why these two men are drawn to each other is never fully explained, but then a lot that occurs in the film is never explained.
The acting is certainly good with the three lead actors being outstanding, but Anderson's script hamstrings the movie from beginning to end. Finally it all becomes tiresome and oblique and the audience leaves feeling completely frustrated.
The film is rated R for profanity, violence and graphic nudity.
The advance reviews for this film proclaimed it one of the year's best. Don't buy into the hype. If you go see it, go with an open mind and the possibility that it might just be one of the year's worst.
I scored The Master a slavish 3 out of 10.
Jackie K Cooper