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The Master (2012)

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A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future - until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 76 wins & 179 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
V.A. Doctor
Mike Howard ...
Rorschach Doctor
Sarah Shoshana David ...
V.A. Nurse
...
V.A. Doctor / Interview
Matt Hering ...
V.A. Patient
Dan Anderson ...
V.A. Patient
...
V.A. Patient
...
V.A. Patient
Patrick Wilder ...
V.A. Patient (as Patrick Biggs)
Ryan Curtis ...
V.A. Patient
Jay Laurence ...
V.A. Patient
Abraxas Adams ...
V.A. Patient
Tina Bruna ...
Portrait Customer
...
Portrait Customer
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Storyline

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

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

| |  »

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

21 September 2012 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Master  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$32,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$736,311 (USA) (16 September 2012)

Gross:

$16,377,274 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

|

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Initially the film was set up with Universal but fell through due to problems with the scripts and the budget. It was later distributed by The Weinstein Company. See more »

Goofs

At the end of the first "processing" scene between Master and Freddie, the ashtray switches from empty to suddenly full of cigarette butts. See more »

Quotes

Peggy Dodd: This is difficult for you, listen.
[reading Victorian pornography]
Peggy Dodd: It's really a damn shame to tease you so, my little whore, he laughed. So I will get the dildo out of my cabinet in the next room. He was scarcely gone many seconds before he returned and I felt his fingers opening the lips of my cunt. Oh oh ah who is that? I screamed for my...
Freddie Quell: I don't want to hear any of this.
Peggy Dodd: Just listen, no reaction.
[reading]
Peggy Dodd: Kiss her, put your tongue in her mouth, my boy. Fuck, fuck, fuck away.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The DVD special-features menu has a reversed image of Joaquin Phoenix's face. You can tell by the scar above his lip. See more »

Connections

References Raging Bull (1980) See more »

Soundtracks

Alethia
(uncredited)
Written by Jonny Greenwood
Performed by London Contemporary Orchestra
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
This is extremely difficult for me. Let me just start.
7 October 2012 | by (Cincinnati, OH, United States) – See all my reviews

Yes, herein contains some of the most ravishing filmmaking of the new millennium. The period details are abstract yet precise. The score has a stark, primordial allure. It's post-WWII America: Psychologically scarred veterans attempt to cramp themselves back into society. One is loner Freddie Quell, adrift in emotional confusion. He's secured a gig as a portrait photographer at a lavish department store imagined like a temple of indulgent commercialism. But Freddie doesn't last long there. In the darkroom, he screws models and chugs rotgut he makes with photo chemicals. Ultimately, he loses it on a customer, not just hitting him but harassing and lambasting him, working out some indecipherable, irrepressible rage.

Phoenix's performance as Freddie reduces all he's done before to a preparation exercise. He longs for something, but even he can't tell you what, and that sorrow has clotted into self- destructive ritual. We see his snarly face from angles we haven't seen before. We're not sure if his leery eyes are hateful or if he's dead inside. He's a captivating animal.

Then he meets stout, articulate Lancaster Dodd, always circled by people who treat him like a prodigy, hanging on his every word, laughing at all his mugging. Lancaster fancies himself a renaissance man. He's married to Peggy, who's much more vigilant than we first think. His son trails the proceedings with a dormant pose of derision. His daughter marries a man who, like everyone else in their clique, views him as a wizard.

The film belongs to Phoenix, but Hoffman more than does his thing, his affectations ringing with conceit and fraudulence. Freddie---father dead, mother institutionalized---is naturally drawn to Dodd, who promises answers, mental freedom, happiness, even claims to cure leukemia. He's written a book his bootlickers treat as a sort of bible. He loves to charm and perform.

It's well-known that Lancaster's cult is inspired by L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology. It's not direct, but the manner in which Lancaster draws Freddie into the fold, among other things, is unmistakably influenced by the contentious institution and Hubbard's life. Paul Thomas Anderson doesn't bind to that inspiration for his movie...but he doesn't bind to anything, really. You walk out muddled, wearied, wondering where to start in connecting the dots in this elegant, arresting movie. The story is as confounding as its technique is magnificent.

Anderson, the true wunderkind of the Tarantino generation, sets everything up so beautifully, you wait for the turning point to prevail so the intrigue can come to boil. Instead, nothing progresses. The dramatic developments seem to dwindle and become less consistent as the movie drifts along, and Anderson throws in pauses, like a lingering desert scene or an outstretched montage in which Freddie is made to pace in a room, that slow the movie to a drudge. Freddie's sex preoccupation, which was stressed in the film's early stretch, grows dissonant. It's less about narrative arc and more the emotional condition of two men, a twist of trust and mistrust, id and superego. PTA's vision is grand in scope, but his result is not so much ambiguous as opaque and detached.

For the first time in his immaculate career, the greatest filmmaker of his generation seems to languish. His newfound frigidness makes the film easy to admire but difficult to love. Anderson is so stunningly impressive, in fact, that it's taken me two viewings of The Master to admit all this to myself. Understandably, some critics have patronized it as deliberately evasive and occult, but isn't that just double-talk? A glorification of an artist's failure to proportionately bear his ideas? Something particularly intriguing is how the movie poses questions not so much about the importance of faith, but how far the human limit for change can extend and to confront emotional devastation so heavy it can never recover. But the film is too ambivalent or cautious to probe them in depth. By the end, it's become an opaque challenge between two phenomenal actors whose commitment to their roles is awe-inspiring, but it's manacled to a work so in awe of itself, the audience gets blockaded.


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