The Master

September 22, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Posted in 2012 | 3 Comments
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After a good deal of time pondering The Master, I’m still not really sure what I think.  The fourth film in six weeks that deals with the human need to trust others and its ability to be exploited (see “The Imposter,” “Compliance” and “Kumaré”), this one feels like the weakest at making that point.  The critics who call this an awful film are being unduly harsh but it is a difficult film.  Rather than any form of a traditional arc, the story drifts (a bit like L Ron Hubbard’s Sea Org) from scene to scene; we get powerful moments of anger, panic, hubris and desperate pain that would have been more meaningful had they been moored more firmly to narrative.  We also get moments that may or may not have been real (were those women really dancing naked?  If so, how did that suddenly materialize?  If not, what is the context for the next scene?  Did Freddie really get a call in a movie theater?  If so, how did Lancaster find him?  If not, how did he know to go to England?) that only add to the viewer’s confusion and, therefore, to a growing sense of disconnect from the characters and, therefore, the stories message.  All of that said, Joaquin Phoenix gives the performance of the year.  This is one of those truly, truly brilliant performances that immediately called to mind Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose.”  Phoenix transforms himself; he carries his body like a man curled in on himself with pain (shoulders up, back hunched) and his face seems older and more broken.  Even his walk is different.  As brilliant as Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams are, and both these performances would outshine most people in most films, they pale next to the energy coming off of Phoenix.  In this role, he establishes himself as possibly the best male actor of his generation (yes, beating out DiCaprio, Franco, Gosling and Bale) and on par with the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis.  For him alone, I would recommend this film.  I would give his performance ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ and the story itself ◊.  I’ve split the difference.



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  1. We saw two different movies. Everyone mailed in their performances? from an unknown PO Box in a mythical town somewhere in the southern hemisphere. I did not find anything redeeming about this farce including the directing, acting,sets, costumes, score and script. Muddled, unstructured haphazard and bad from opening credits to the much anticipated – “THE END.”

  2. Thanks for the comment, Bob. I appreciate an opposing opinion. I can understand your feelings about most of it but stand strongly by my impressions of Phoenix’s performance.

    • Well, we all have opinions and other things. Joachin’s performance seemed forced. He tried too hard and lacked direction and motivation. Not his fault as the entire cast had no direction. Anyway, see Buttar if you get a chance – it is not a heavy weight but we thought it was a lot of fun and enjoyed it.

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