I’ve always thought Joaquin Phoenix was the Marlon Brando of his generation, a classic method actor with personal traits that often were even beyond most of the characters he played in motion pictures. There was never a better example of this then his latest film, “The Master.”
Phoenix plays a WW II veteran who returns home very emotionally disturbed and a full-blown alcoholic with sickening sexual tendencies. His wanderings take him into the company of a character played by Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman who plays the leader of a cult group called The Cause. “The Master” was supposedly inspired by the origins of Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, but the writer and director of “The Master,” Paul Thomas Andersen, disavows this point even though the similarities are striking.
Hoffman and Phoenix’s characters develop a strong bond that is difficult to define from the storyline. One of the problems with “The Master” is its ambiguous and wandering script. The viewer is left with a vague overall understanding of what is going on, but it’s all very superficial.
Casting is the strong suit of “The Master.” Hoffman and Phoenix give unforgettable performances. The supporting cast includes Amy Adams and Laura Dern.
But the film lacks traction and gives the audience little real story and emotional elements to grab onto. There are a few distasteful scenes involving Phoenix’s character’s mental disturbances. “The Master” is the first movie filmed in 65 mm and it has a noticeably superior visual and color quality.