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 catch wiring on the side of the ship when the men were relaxing they didn't match 1950 ships. They were made of some kind of synthetic wiring. That technology wasn't available at that time frame. Even today they still use metal wiring on those things. See more »
V.A. representative addressing returning veterans:
You men are blessed with the rejuvenating powers of youth. The responsibilities of peacetime must now be considered. You can start a business: filling station, grocery or hardware store. Get a few acres of land and raise some chickens... go back to school.
V.A. representative addressing returning veterans:
Undoubtedly, there will be people on the outside who will not understand the condition you men have, or will think it a rather shameful condition. If the average civilian had been through the same stresses that you have been ...
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After its title, this film has no further opening credits. See more »
This is extremely difficult for me. Let me just start.
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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