Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good film that could have been a great one, 5 Feb 2014
This review is from: The Master [DVD] (DVD)
By the end of this worthily if wearyingly impressive film, I was beginning to get restless.
The great Philip Seymour Hoffman (now so tragically gone from us) adds to his gallery of mesmerising performances as the titular Master, with the always worth watching Amy Adams as his pregnant wife, who more and more appears to be the `power behind the throne`. Both are terrific.
Joaquin Phoenix here looks like a half-starved cross between Montgomery Clift after his accident and a shorter, more mannered Daniel Day Lewis (coincidentally the star of maverick director Paul Thomas Anderson`s previous film, the far more coherent There Will Be Blood). Don`t get me wrong, Phoenix is a man champing at the bit - he`s Brando, Clift & Dean here, you name it - but his loping, twitchy take on Freddie Quell, ex-soldier on the loose, gets wearing, and I`m not sure it isn`t merely a fascinating character in search of a better film, better script, and a better reason for existing.
The wonderful Laura Dern is wasted in a too-small role of a follower of the cult set up by the Master (which, despite denials, looks like a disguised Scientology) and too many of the characters are either left stranded by the director or given plenty to do but with too little reason for their actions.
It`s one of those `loaded` films where I can`t help thinking that one vital ingredient is missing: real life. This is a story that needed to be told, but it could have been either much more visceral and less like an American art-film wanting to please, or a more open-ended, Altman-like ramble, which might have given Phoenix, Hoffman, Adams et al more room to let rip.
That said, Hoffman is superb, Adams is near-perfect, and Phoenix is, despite my above concerns, brilliant. I just can`t help wondering: to what purpose? In the end, the Cause (the enigmatically symbolic name of the cult) seems to be a touch too cosy for anyone`s comfort. Perhaps that`s the point. And I do `get` that Freddie is a war-scarred outsider searching for - for something, a place to belong.
The early scenes - if I hadn`t known a little of the back-story before I saw it - could have been very confusing, particularly as we are concentrating so much on the startling figure of Freddie and his often outrageous behaviour that it`s easy to miss what is being set up.
This is a film that will get people talking, but I reckon half that talk will be about whether the film is as good as it wants to be, rather than the issues it hopes to raise.
An ambitious, intelligent, fascinating, deeply flawed film.
Seven out of ten.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Feb 2014 17:43:34 GMT
Perceptive review

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Feb 2014 20:33:45 GMT
GlynLuke says:
Many thanks, LV. To be honest, I`m not sure what to make of the film other than that I don`t think I feel the need to see it again.
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GlynLuke
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Location: York UK

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