"The Master” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1560747/ is one of those films you'll be glad you saw if you are a film buff and want to know why it gets nominated for an Oscar. But will it be one of your favorite films that you’ll watch over and over again for enjoyment? I doubt it. Joachin Phoenix’s acting is riveting. From his Forrest Gump hands on hips, bent over posture, to the emotions that play across his face, you will find it hard to look away. He plays Freddie Quell, a disturbed marginally functional man who cannot hold down a job and self medicates with alcohol. He stumbles upon Lancaster Dodd, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, a charismatic leader with a cult following. The two find something in each other that curiously binds them together. This bond seems to be a mutual scamming. They both use each other. Dodd appears to need Freddie to prove that his crackpot ideas and processes really work and Freddie needs to hope they will. Although Freddie leaves and behaves badly repeatedly, Dodd always invites him back. And Freddie always returns.
The fact that there is no character arc for either of these two men will leave you unsettled and vaguely dissatisfied at the end. However, in life we often don’t have great changes in character. People try and fail, and try the same thing again and fail again. The imagery of the ship’s wake repeated over and over again echoes the patterns of repetition in the film and the theme of waking up from the patterns of our past. This isn't your usual story telling with everything wrapped up neatly for no fuss consumption. This is a movie that pushes markers that other films operate by, or completely ignores them. The performances of the supporting cast also make for interesting viewing. Amy Adams portrays Dodd’s weird wife with great intensity. Laura Dern's small role as a member of the cult who dares to argue with Dodd, makes you wonder why she's not cast in more movies. If nothing else you will be fascinated by the portrayal of the inner circle of a cult leader. The paranoia, the ignoring of the obvious, the burying of his manuscript in the desert, all increase the interest in this look at what some have said is very like Scientology. Bring on the weird!