With this, his sixth film, Paul Thomas Anderson enters the hallowed halls of master craftsmen like David Fincher or Steven Spielberg, by creating a film that is very well made yet completely devoid of meaning, honest emotion or inspiration. It all starts with the end of Joaquin Phoenix service in the navy during World War II, accompanied by a Johnny Greenwood score so painful to hear it could be taken straight from There Will Be Blood. Luckily, Anderson learned from that film and the music becomes bearable before a debilitating headache makes it impossible to follow the storyline further. Phoenix leaves the service insane, probably even more so than before he entered it, and drifts around America looking to piece together a life, unsuccessfully, until he comes across Philip Seymour Hoffman's cult that appears to be modeled on Scientology. What follows is a rather by-the-numbers story about their interaction. Yes, there is plenty here to like. The acting of Phoenix is excellent, while Hoffman partly disappoints, never coming across as charismatic enough to draw so many people to his crazy religion. And Anderson is a very good director. But there is very little reason to watch this film. It really lacks inspiration. It's solid, but there is nothing out of the ordinary here. Anderson's latest, There Will Be Blood, tried for something far greater and while I personally regard it as a failure, at least it was ambitious and daring. This one you can take or leave, it won't make any difference. Just as it wouldn't have made any difference if it had never been made.
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