Writer/Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Running time: 131 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15
UK Release date: 16th November 2012
Watched on Sky+ Saturday 7th September 2013.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE UNINTENTIONAL SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
This is a film that the critics really liked; however, it’s one that failed to impress the public to a large extent. Of course critics, being the kind of animals they are, can sometimes be a little off the mark when it comes to what will work in theatres. This is precisely why this one ended up on my list; well, to be fair, I loved Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Magnolia’ and many of his works prior to this as well. So, to ‘The Master’, well, without wishing to be unkind (I’ll save that for later), it didn’t quite hit the mark for me either. I will tell you why right after this very brief summary.
At the end of World War II a troubled seaman, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is released into society. He seems to have little purpose and stumbles around from job to job but his drinking always brings him trouble. One night in 1950 he stumbles aboard a yacht and stows away. The man hosting a party on the yacht is the charismatic Lancaster Dodd (The Master) (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who has some pretty strange ideas, and he takes Freddie under his wing. The Master’s wife, Peggy (Amy Adams), accepts him at first but this will change over time. We follow The Master and his group around various parts of the USA and witness as some of his theories are put into practice. We also see how he tries to rehabilitate Freddie, not always with great success. I guess that’s about all I can say without giving too much away.
The film is beautifully shot, making full use of the various surroundings they find themselves in. The use of music from the period was quite effective also, not always to my taste, but it seemed to fit pretty well. As to performances, well, all the major parts were excellently portrayed with Philip Seymour Hoffman standing out. I found I really paid attention to every scene he was in; without him, meaning no disrespect to the other actors involved, it kind of fell flat. I though Amy Adams was excellent too, although I felt she was underused. There appeared to be an awful lot of improvisation, particularly from Joaquin Phoenix and I found these scenes very hit and miss. I sometimes felt like I was watching an acting class. As far as the narrative goes, well I found it meandering; it was very slow (not that this is always a bad thing) and when we did get to a point it would then go off in a totally different direction. Over all, it didn’t stand out as the particularly outstanding work the critics seem to think it is; but then again, I don’t have to watch all the dross they have to on a day to day basis. Maybe I have to watch a lot of really bad films and then watch this one again, but for now it’s ‘Recommended’, but only just.
SteelMonster’s verdict: RECOMMENDED
My score: 6.1/10.
IMDb Score: 7.1/10 (based on 55,365 votes when this review was written).
MetaScore: 86/100: (Based on 43 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 60/100: (based on 43,007 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
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