The Master

The Master: a veteran returns home and is eventually taken under the wing of a charismatic charlatan. To get the ‘acting’ chat out of the way, Joaquin Phoenix turns in a career-defining performance of a multi-layered borderline perverted post-war wayward career alcoholic who is – we’re led to believe – physically and mentally disabled – it’s an acting accomplishment of the highest order. PSH is good, but – and I know it’s ridiculous to say – you always expect big shouty performances like this from him now. The rest of the cast are top dollar, but only appear for minutes at a time. The film itself is rather vague; part psychology, part character study, part love story, part drama, part coming-of-age, part religious historical… it feels very unplanned and ill-though out. It borrows some major themes similarities from There Will Be Blood, and to a lesser extent harks back to Magnolia, and the similarities between “The Cause” and Scientology’s beginnings, and leader, are about as subtle as a brick to the face – it was almost silly to not name it. The Master is a strange one: the subject matter’s interesting, the acting’s top-drawer, it’s beautifully shot (so much so that plenty scenes resemble ‘art’ more than ‘cinema’) … but the way in which it’s edited, and the often bizarre content of many scenes’ make it infuriatingly alienating. By the end of this 140 minute endurance test, I was long disinterested. It’s a shame that some magnificent performances are upstaged and drowned out by such irreverent cinematic and narrative wankery (for the second time in two weeks!).

Score: 3/10

  1. I’d probably rate The Master higher than a 3, but I can totally see your point. I”m still not sure what I think of this movie. I know that it’s showing up all over year-end lists, but I can’t say that I enjoyed the experience very much. It’s such a head-scratcher that it likely takes another viewing or two to really dig into it. Is that a good thing? I’m not sure. Regardless, I’m with you on the acting, which is just great across the board. It also looks amazing.

    I just discovered your blog and really like the short format. I’ll be coming back soon!


    • Paragraph Film Reviews said:

      It’s definitely a unique film, and one that will probably be the cause of great debate over the next few years. Just wasn’t my thing. To pinpoint it after a few months, I really disliked the plotless plot, and the fact that you’re never really sure how much time is passing between the scenes.


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