Tag Archives: the master
The Master (2012)
Written and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Fairly light on spoilers, but see the movie first.
This is a review I’ve been meaning to write ever since Greg’s scathing take. He’s completely wrong about the film, but wrong in a Greg way, which is to say, entirely consistent with how he views films, so s’all good—I expect nothing less from him, and love him for it. But, the thought of his take being the only take on the film on this site just isn’t right, because it’s a great goddamn film. And in the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s passing, it’s certainly been on my mind, given its central theme of addiction—a theme that has, for some reason, eluded many critics.
The infatuation between Freddie Quell (Phoenix) and Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman) is never outright, hammer-over-the-head explained in The Master, leaving many viewers—and even professional reviewers—to come to the most obvious and tittilating and childish of conclusions: that they are deeply closeted homosexuals in love. Undeniably, there’s a degree of homoeroticism to many of their interactions, but to chalk their bond off as mere ‘gayness’ is to ignore what these two men are truly struggling with, and what brought them together in the first place—alcohol.
I’ve tried to write this essay a million times. In fact, I was trying to write this essay since before Cody and I even started this site. I’m still not exactly sure why it’s been so hard, but I think it has something to do with the inherent difficulty in explaining paradoxes—in this case, the paradox of knowing a movie is gonna bad before you’ve even seen it, but also knowing that it could, technically, be good, but also knowing that it will be bad.
Every movie is a product on a shelf. And the job of the people selling the movie is to try to convince you that it’ll be good. But they almost always do a terrible job. It’s not their fault, really. I mean, how can one capture the depth and complexity of Big in three minutes? The social security number joke just wouldn’t play in the context of a trailer. So the powers that be are forced to not only tell you the premise, but also give you some universally funny moments that entice you to see it. This is why the least funny scenes are in the trailer, and why stupid people laugh at these scenes like Pavlov’s dogs.
I hate the god damn Oscars. Basically, for all the same reasons everyone hates the Oscars, so I don’t need to get into all that here. However, I still watch every year, because the tree of disgust for Hollywood must be refreshed from time to time by the blood of patriots. (I think Thomas Jefferson said that.)
The Master isn’t a movie. It’s a bunch of footage. I’ll get to that, but first I need to walk you through how I feel about P.T. Anderson’s filmography. Excluding Hard Eight. Let’s just pretend Hard Eight doesn’t exist. That’s not difficult, since nobody has seen it or even heard of it. So, starting with Boogie Nights: