P.T. Anderson is considered one of the most prolific and successful filmmakers alive with a palmy, 16-year-long string of films including casino sleeper Hard Eight (1996), much talked about ode to porn Boogie Nights (1997), LA ensemble epic Magnolia (1999), an artsy Adam Sandler rom com, Punch-Drunk Love (2002) and the award-friendly period piece There Will be Blood (2007). Now, after nearly a decade in the making, Anderson brings his brainchild, The Master to life. The film reunites the director with longtime collaborator Philip Seymour Hoffman and serves as a comeback for acclaimed actor Joaquin Phoenix.
The movie opens with protagonist Freddie Quell (Phoenix), a Navy man recently home from World War II, not connecting to life as well as he should be. Working as a department store photographer addicted to alcohol and sex, his life takes an extreme turn when he suddenly becomes the protégé of an unorthodox philosopher (Hoffman) with an avid following and insistent wife (Amy Adams). Laura Dern and Rami Malek co-star.
Phoenix and Adams deliver two of the most outstanding performances of their careers. Along with Hoffman, the acting carries the feature brilliantly, as does the beautiful cinematography. These almost make up for the unfortunate lack of concrete narrative Anderson seems to have struggled with in The Master. While the direction and characters are interesting and hypnotizing, it’s as if Anderson became so caught up in the art of filmmaking that he’s neglected the storytelling.