A psychologically troubled novelty supplier is nudged towards a romance with an English woman, all the while being extorted by a phone-sex line run by a crooked mattress salesman, and purchasing stunning amounts of pudding.
Paul Thomas Anderson
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Returning from Navy service in World War II, Freddie Quell drifts through a series of breakdowns. Finally he stumbles upon a cult which engages in exercises to clear emotions and he becomes deeply involved with them. Written by
Alan Young, edit Hal Issen
The first motion picture in 16 years to be filmed on 65mm format using Panavision's System 65 camera. Around 85% of the film was shot in this format, with the rest shot on 35mm. The last full-length motion picture to be shot in 65/70mm was Kenneth Branagh's 1996 adaptation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet (1996). See more »
When Freddie starts undergoing processing at Helen's house, Lancaster Dodd has a handkerchief in his left hand but as the camera switches to a different angle, the handkerchief has shifted to his right hand. See more »
Well, I really wanted to like this one. On paper it's perfect. Director/writer Paul Thomas Anderson, cast headed by Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. What could go wrong? The script. If a movie doesn't start with a good script, it can't turn out well. There is no crest to this story. And there is no denouement. It lays flat for over two hours. The actors give great performances and the scenes are constructed well. Joaquin Phoenix has moments that are tragic. And then the movie just plods on. I am fine with a film that develops slowly. I'm not fine with a film that never develops. Is it about an alcoholic? No. Is it about a cult leader? No. It's random moments, between an alcoholic and a cult leader, strung together, with no direction, and no narrative. You could extract any scene from this film, and on it's own it would stand up well. Pieced together, however, they don't add up to a story.
A story has to be about something. It has to start somewhere and it has to go somewhere. This story starts, and then goes nowhere. It is fine if the resolution of a story is simply it's endlessness. This film, however, never establishes where it's going. And, therefore, can't simply, go on forever. It never went anywhere to begin with. The actors are left to spluge all over the audience for no discernible reason. I'm over Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and have been for a while. In this role, as a sort of L. Ron Hubbard figure, he overacts to the point of caricature. For my money, the best Seymour Hoffman is "Boogie Nights", "Happiness", or "The Talented Mr. Ripley". Joaquin Phoenix is probably the most talented American actor working today, but his physically contorted, repetitive, mentally tortured, alcoholic, Freddie Quell, was never given the opportunity to become real or sympathetic, or even vile. He just, like the rest of the movie, went on, and on, and on. This actor, Joaquin Phoenix, has the chops to do anything. Check him out in "Reservation Road", "Gladiator", "Walk The Line", and his BEST, "Two Lovers". In "Two Lovers" Phoenix draws the portrait of an emotionally crippled man whose life crumbles beyond all hope (in his eyes), but through an accident of fate finds a path through which to go on living. He is riveting. There isn't anything he can't do given the opportunity. But he doesn't get the opportunity here.
Clearly this film was trying to comment on cultism. We know too much, however (Jonestown, Waco, Warren Jeffs), about cults to accept this fraction of a story. Clearly the main character was an alcoholic. Yet the film never explored his turmoil, or addiction, the way even a dumb show like "Celebrity Rehab" would. We were almost brought close enough to his story to care during his first session with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but that was not developed and ultimately went nowhere. Just like the rest of the film.
There are some shocking scenes in this film. But there is no story that justifies them. It is like watching a big screen version of "Americas Most Shocking Videos", - for over two hours. They are independently compelling, but ultimately disconnected. And they never amount to a story about anything I could wrap my arms around. For me the ultimate failure of this film is that there was no point to it. It is not an art film. It is a pointless film. And it's not that I don't get "it". There's nothing to get. Better to spend your time watching car crashes, on TV, shot from dash cams. At least you won't expect much going in.
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