The Master - 2012 – Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson's latest effort showcases what I find to be his greatest talent, picking actors to work with. From Sydney back in 1996 through Daniel Day-Lewis’ Oscar winning performance in There Will Be Blood, every PTA film has featured amazing acting. Anderson has a knack for consistently knowing how to find the right actor for the right role. Sure anyone who has even a passing knowledge of movies could have said that Philip Seymour Hoffman would be spectacular, I do not think that he can do it any other way, but the surprise of the movie was Amy Adams’ commanding presents. Adams is a talented actress and has been good in the past in movies like The Fighter but in here I felt that she was in control of the situation every time that she was on screen. Taking into account the fact that Hoffman is playing her husband in the 1950’s, who is also a cult leader; Adams always projected a feeling that she was the one in control.
Of all the great performances in this film the one that I would put my money on when awards season comes around is Joaquin Phoenix. In his ‘return’ to acting after a brief retirement, Phoenix completely embodies the alcoholic veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder. The cynical part of me thinks of course he plays a good crazy guy, the man has shown that he is crazy. But I know that’s not true. What he has really shown is that he is a deeply committed method actor, maybe to an unhealthy extent. Phoenix brings an unhinged sense menace to all of his actions. No matter what the interaction, there is always a strong possibility of violence.
Plot wise there is nothing earth shattering about The Master. Man comes home from the war, get caught up with a cult and travel around with them. It is a scientology stand-in cult, but I do not think that it add any new insights about the group. More importantly it is a love story. A strange but moving love story.