The Master (2012)

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Laura Dern, Ambyr Childers, Jesse Plemons, Rami Malek, Lena Endre, Madisen Beaty

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Expectations: High. I’m a big PTA fan.


I don’t know… I don’t know… I don’t know… These were the words that I repeated as I left The Master and walked to my car. I continued through the car ride, and now I’m typing them. The feeling hasn’t gone away in the slightest. I don’t know if The Master was good, I don’t know what exactly The Master was saying, I don’t know if I liked The Master. It’s a tough one, this film, and coincidentally I felt somewhat similar after seeing There Will Be Blood in the theater in 2007. But where that film ended with a definite conclusion, and a scene that remains unforgettable and distinctly quotable, The Master does neither.

The Master is about two men. One is Joaquin Phoenix, playing a troubled ex-Navy man named Freddie. The other is Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing the master, the leader of The Cause, a cult/movement concerned with curing people’s problems by confronting their past traumas and digging up past lives. Through the movie, we’re glued to these two men, for better or worse, and through them we are supposed to uncover the story of the film. I don’t really mean that in a plot sense, as the film contains a narrative that makes sense and is easy to follow, I mean it like the true story of the film is in the subtext of their interactions and it’s for us to unravel what the character’s motivations are and any meaning we might derive from this.

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Mini-Review: To Die For (1995)

Starring Nicole Kidman, Joaquin Phoenix, Alison Folland, Matt Dillon, Casey Affleck, Illeana Douglas, Dan Hedaya

Directed by Gus Van Sant

Expectations: None.


This is a mildly entertaining movie about a pretty girl who has high aspirations to be on television. She’ll do anything. Simple enough. Usually with this type of film, there’s some level of intrigue, but this is not the case with To Die For. The film is told through a pseudo-documentary style and you know pretty much what happens in the first couple of minutes. I’m okay with that, as long as the characters are interesting, but I’m sorry to say that they aren’t. Nicole Kidman’s character is the only one even remotely absorbing and she does well in her role, with some exceptional moments. Most of the other players are overacted caricatures of American stereotypes with Matt Dillon and Joaquin Phoenix battling for the main offender trophy. Illeana Douglas is the best of the supporting cast, but then I always enjoy her in anything, so I could be biased.

This is all coupled with Gus Van Sant’s ugly, boring camera work and editing, making it readily apparent that this one just wasn’t made for me. I can say one thing about Van Sant’s work, he’s consistent. His shot selection never ceases to frustrate and annoy me. I had seen this before when it came out and I didn’t like it then. I like it less now. Avoid it, unless you generally like Van Sant’s work or you want to see Joaquin Phoenix or Casey Affleck in early roles.

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