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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Master-ful acting, directing lift film about not-Scientology cult

By Kelli Henderson/entertainment editor

Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film The Master follows the relationship between a sociopath and his unofficial healer in 1950. With incredible actors, the film relishes in skill, but the ending falls short of great.

Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) makes coconut moonshine in the Pacific War. Quell remains an alcoholic even after meeting Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in The Master.
Photo courtesy The Weinstein Company

The Master tells the story of Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a troubled World War II veteran with a severe drinking problem. As he returns home, Quell has trouble holding down a steady job. He drunkenly stumbles onto a boat one night as a stowaway, where he meets Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the founder and head of the Cause, a spiritual group based off of Dodd’s past writings.

Dodd, who calls himself a physicist, philosopher and neurologist, though he has no form of doctoral degree, soon becomes infatuated with Quell, seeing him as a challenge. They dive deep into Dodd’s beliefs, including “informal processing,” a personality test and digging up bad prenatal memories to be erased to clear up irrational behavior.

After some research, there seems to be a lot of comparison between Dodd and L. Ron Hubbard. Though no one from the Church of Scientology has come forth and claimed yea or nay, Anderson said in an interview that he has always had a fascination with Hubbard but did not want this to be a biography.

And it isn’t.

What shines through the camera is the odd psychological bro-mance between Quell and Dodd. In many scenes, the banter and emotional conversations between the two seem to be almost like foreplay, building and building to something bigger.

The actors’ abilities to portray such characters are phenomenal. Phoenix does such a great job of portraying the sickly man that the audience almost wonders if he is not pretending. Like all cult leaders, Hoffman is charismatic and exciting and draws the audience in as one of his own, presenting them with the yearning of his success in everything he does. And Amy Adams, though short on screen time, does a great job as Dodd’s wife and number one fan. She is a Lady MacBeth of sorts, a frontier woman for the Cause. She is the power behind the throne.

The only thing questionable for The Master is the drop-off ending. The film seems to just stop. The anticipation rises, but there is not much satisfaction for those waiting. That does not mean the ending is bad either. It has a good meaning, but while an oomph was expected, only a sizzle is delivered.

Anderson, yet again, delivers with this psychological drama, and it is sure to be nominated when award time comes.

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