There Will Be Frustration

26 09 2012

By Kleinz 57

Ten years ago, when Jay-Z wasn’t a revolving billboard, a new Hova album was a big deal to music fans. Well, before his three retirements at least. And while Paul Thomas Anderson is as white as his name implies, a new film from one of today’s most talented directors causes movie fans to pop their own brand of sweaty, salty boner. PTA’s latest, The Master, indeed fashions itself as a feeelm of the highest pedigree — one that inspires the limp-wristed, highnosed, tea drinking attention of film douchers everywhere. Yes, even in certain bloggers who only pretend to be.

Contrary to its promotional material’s vague pompousness, The Master is actually about lot of stuff; you’ll just have to work at figuring that stuff out. At its chewy center is a tested companionship between Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lancaster “Master” Dodd, a myopic Renaissance Man, and Joaquin Phoenix as his gnarled alchemist protege, Freddie Quell. Hoffman struggles to reconcile this weird father/brother thing against his dedication to ‘processing’ away Phoenix’s obvious eccentricities. Phoenix on the other hand struggles to simply stop drinking paint thinner so damn much. Amy Adams channels her inner Shirley Phelps Roeper as Hoffman’s enigmatic baby machine, raising doubts as to exactly who’s pulling whose strings within The Master’s fictional cult, The Cause. PTA also places families in general under his microscope, specifically the awkward stuff we sometimes do to keep our own together and whether or not that price is worth it. Take Jesse Plemons as Dodd’s son, Val, reluctant to always swallow what The Cause is selling. Am I obligated to support my loony windbag Dad if he’s already bought me some pretty spiffy three-pieces? That’s a question he might ask himself.

To address the short, psychotic elephant in the room, there are many similarities The Cause shares with Scientology, namely Dodd’s bullshitting likeness to L. Ron Hubbard. While I can only imagine all the intricate ways David Miscavige, perched high atop Castle Grayskull, is planning to ice Harvey Weinstein, simply reading The Master as ‘the Scientology movie’ won’t yield much out of a very lean narrative. Then again, most PTA films are like magical top hats, and we pull whatever we damn well please out of them — contrary to other directors’ smaller bowlers, and with some you’re liable to only pull out a rabbit or a Jason Statham. The story here is more or less shown through a bevy of fantastic performances, and since we’re at about the All-Star Break for awards season, it’s only fair to add to the national rainbow party surrounding Hoffman and Phoenix’s performances. The latter of the two is particularly brilliant, if only for the accomplishment of maintaining a permanent half-grin, half-who sharted? expression for two+ hours. Phoenix hunches through each and every scene with an angular gait and the disposition of a seven year old who wants to make a fuss but isn’t sure when to start or even how. Also be prepared to feign surprise when Mihai Malaimare, Jr. wins all the awards for his striking camera work. I won’t tear Madison yet another hole for dropping the ball on getting its film shit together and simply say that despite not seeing this in its preferred 70mm projection, it looks damn purdy in digital.

Of course, critics have wasted many hours debating whether all that trailer vagueness is actually a problem in the film itself. Stephanie Zacharek even took the opportunity to consider if certain films in general deserve more attention or thought than others. Her inspiration? All this Master hubbub. Is it fair to demand more from an audience with one film over another, even if we aren’t particularly moved by it? If we find it boring? If we just really like Uwe Boll? I’m tempted to give a qualified ‘yes.’ Yes, you should see The Master, but you should feel however the hell you want. A director doesn’t get a free pass on greatness. That’s only okay with Batman movies.

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