It was half-price Tuesday, and with marketing machine at full force offering us 300 scene-points at Cineplex to watch this most talked about film at TIFF 2012, I mean no movie buffs will turn down the offer, or will they?
Immediately, I was surprised that there was no “Timeplay” for this film, so that I could earn an extra 100 points, and second surprise, there were no previews. At show time, immediately, there was the black screen background, and typography “The Master”. Oh no I thought, late comers thinking there would be previews so that they could come habitually late 15 minutes, and perform their let-us-squeeze-in to-the-middle-seats-ritual. Sure, there were, and blocking my view! Etiquette people, etiquette. (Google it if you don’t know them!!! or just go to the front roll seats, it’s that easy and it’s a good thing for the rest)
I was grumpy because I didn’t want to miss seeing sailors behaving badly at the beach, and in particular, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix). I had to catch my breathe while saying out loud in my head: WTF! Freddie has behavioural problems, but I am not 100% sure that it is truly mental. 90% sure is a developmental issue, with absent parents and abusive aunt. Anyway, the film taken place in 1950s, the war is over, and Freddie is holding down any jobs that he can find, and they are getting worse. Freddie is not an alcoholic, but a substance-abuser! The home-made brews are far from any forms of distillation, hence, his choice of substance is chemicals cocktail. I am very surprised to see that his stomach can hold on to such volatile chemicals that we usually see skull with cross-bones labels on them. (But who will pay attention to such fine detail other than me?!)
We know this film is a duet between Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays Lancaster Dodd, a self-claimed writer, philosopher, and other things. All I will say is that they deliver, because they are both good actors. Beyond that, I have nothing else to say. The film is not inspirational, does not tell us why we should care about this group of people who believe in getting back to 100% goodness, or that people are not animals, nor it helps us to fall in love with any of the characters, especially Freddie. He is lost and aimless, and so? Maybe he is an existentialist? All I can deduce from it is that perhaps Lancaster was just as mental as Freddie when he was younger; hence, he understood, and took Freddie under his wings, so to speak. Peggy Dodd (Amy Adams), is she the matriarch that holds the troop together? if not, she is there because….?
So far, everyone is dancing around and saying it is not referencing Scientology…so what should I attach my emotions to when I am watching this? Each actor acting in isolation? post-war era? past-lives regression? rich people with weird beliefs and fund it? or taking it at face-value, find a woman who will go to bed with you despite anything else, and live happily ever after?
Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Boogie Nights (1997), and Magnolia (1999) were provocative, and I do like Magnolia. Well, for The Master maybe I am missing a seventh sense or a MFA to appreciate this beaux-arts-production?!