What a bunch of hooey! I think I’m too rational to get anything from “The Master.” It was not entertaining or enlightening. Although Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, and Amy Adams did bang-up jobs portraying whackos, I wish I had fallen asleep during the movie…
Freddie Quell (Phoenix) is nuts and becomes more so after serving in the Navy during WWII. He has two obsessions: sex and drinking. The former he cannot get enough of and doesn’t care how he gets it; for the latter he makes his own brew out of whatever he can find, including photography fluid and paint varnish.
After failing at being a department store photographer and a cabbage picker, Freddie stows away on a private yacht and finds himself in the midst of kooky cultist Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), who promotes his made-up-as-he-goes-along The Cause. The yacht has been borrowed from one of his followers for the wedding and honeymoon of Dodd’s daughter. When Freddie is discovered, Dodd, called The Master, becomes interested in him as a tortured soul in need of his special healing process. Freddie is allowed to stay on board for the sea trip to New York, as long as he helps out in whatever Dodd can find for him to do. And thus, Freddie begins an erratic, helter-skelter therapy, which never helps.
Pregnant Peggy Dodd (Adams) adores her husband (she’s his third or fourth wife) and believes totally in him. However, she does not completely accept his mentoring of freaky Freddie, who does not hesitate to become violent against any disbeliever of The Master. Peggy is quite a manipulator herself.
Dodd’s theory includes that the universe is a trillion years old and we have been reincarnated millions of times. His therapy includes hypnosis and mindless repetition, which does nothing for Freddie. Dodd is an absolute control freak and charlatan, whose followers willingly give him their all. No one can interrupt his magnificence when he is speaking; and he expects everyone to adore him and accept everything he says. Should he be doubted or questioned by outsiders, he rages against them. Dodd, his family, and Freddie are taken in by wealthy believers for weeks at a time…Really cannot say “Thank you” to writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.