(MAYBE) RECOMMENDED: We are eternally grateful to the people who host these film screenings that allow us to make Film Sweat, specifically for one reason: We saw Paul Thomas Anderson‘s The Master last week, and it took us nearly all of those seven days between then and now to wrap our heads around it (we’re still a little unsure of how we feel about it). The film tells the story of Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a very troubled WWII vet, who has problems controlling his temper, emotions, and libido. He drunkenly stumbles upon the Hubbard-esque Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his family during a wedding party, and is immediately brought into Dodd’s inner-circle. Dodd goes through a range of feelings for Quell throughout the movie, mainly hatred, pity, sorrow, love, and disappointment. The audience mostly feels facial cramps from having furrowed brows for over 2 hours.
The Master is one of those films that is a shoe-in for Oscars noms in acting, directing, and score, but feels less likely to win Best Picture. It’s beautifully filmed in 70mm (which, we’re sure, is something fancy), and the frantic, someone-drugged-the-orchestra score (by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood) makes the viewer about as nervous as the broken Quell. But as a “complete” film, The Master feels kind of empty. The performances are there (and in the case of Hoffman, Phoenix, and Amy Adams as Dodd’s wife, they are excellent), but very little actually … happens. The film is filled with conflict that leads to no resolution. Even at the film’s end, we were pretty sure there was another half-hour left since it didn’t feel like the end of any story or arc. It feels like a film-goer sin to say this, but we left that theater feeling … bored.
But in the end, PTA’s “Scientology film” was less about Dodd’s cult, and more about the strange inner-workings of Freddie Quell (we cannot stress enough how much Joaquin Phoenix acted his ass off). Even more so than that, it was less about the audience, and more about creating a film that was not necessarily a story, but a film. The focus was not storytelling, but film-making, which is kinda PTA’s vibe anyway.
ALSO NEW IN THEATERS: End of Watch, which feels a lot like an Oliver Stone movie but isn’t an Oliver Stone movie; Dredd 3D, which robs Karl Urban of his “Oh, it’s that guy” moment by having him wear a helmet the whole time; House At The End Of The Street, which has the most vague title since A Haunting In Connecticut and is starring the same person; and Trouble With The Curve, which has had the chair-gate situation distract from the fact that Justin Timberlake plays a baseball scout in this movie.