‘The Master’ (the next day)
Yesterday I went to see The Master. I went in really excited. I’m a huge Paul Thomas Anderson fan. It’s nice to see Joaquin Phoenix back in the game and PSH can do no wrong.
I walked out … confused and a little disappointed. (There are some SPOILERS here so stop reading if you don’t want to know anything about the film before you see it.)
Before I go into the film, let me say that I thought about the movie all night and it’s still with me 24 hours later. To me - that says that the film was powerful and left an impression. But I’m still not sure if I would say I liked the movie. I certainly don’t want to see it again and I can’t remember every feeling that way about any other Anderson movies.
My first problem with the film was that Phoenix’s character, Freddie, was so unlikeable, such a deeply lost cause. I’m not sure why Dodd took him on board in the first place. Maybe because he felt that if he could save Freddie he could save anyone? It wasn’t clear. He kept talking about how part of The Cause was proving that we aren’t animals but Freddie was all animal. He’ was almost a monster - the way he was always hunched over.
And what was going on with Freddie’s mouth? Had he had a stroke? The affectation made it hard to understand Phoenix’s dialogue sometimes. I think it was to make him even more of a monster. He poisoned himself, seemed to think only of sex and violence and willingly let Dodd experiment on him while acknowledging that it never seemed to really make him feel any better.
It made it very hard to like him or care about him and for me, that was a problem.
Anderson didn’t make Dodd any more likable though. Although he was very charismatic, nothing he said made any sense at all. Maybe that was intentional but it made it really really hard to see why people believed in him. I also felt like I never really understood the tenants of The Cause.
I do think all of this was intentional. That Anderson was trying to say something big. I’m just not 100% sure I know what that was.
Amy Adams was amazing but I read one review say her character was Lady McBeth- like. I didn’t get that. Was she supposed to be the master that Dodd was serving?
Which leads me to the moment that almost killed the movie for me. When Freddie went to England, he kept saying he heard Dodd in a dream. So Dodd didn’t really call him there? How did he find Dodd then? And if Dodd did call him there, did he call him just to reject him?
And why the hell did he sing Slow Boat to China to him? Was that supposed to be homoerotic? Watching him sing that song, I really felt like - maybe I’m just too dumb to understand this movie. Was he threatening him? Was it just an expression of platonic love? A father singing a weird lullaby to his son?
And what did Mary mean when she said Elizabeth was DCF? Argh.
I wish the story line had been a bit more clear, that I had related to the journey of at least one of the main characters. Freddie didn’t seem to grow or change much. I didn’t understand why he left Dodd on the motorcycle. Why did he chose that moment to give up on Dodd?
I do think it was a powerful movie and I’m not completely against working my brain but in the end, I think the film didn’t work for me. I really wish it had.