Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix shake the Master's heart.
Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix shake the Master's heart.


The Master

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and Laura Dern.

The film's ambiguity could hardly be unintentional, but more interesting is Anderson's use of sumptuous technique to tell a story defined by withholding. The viewing experience, akin to grasping for something just out of reach in a dream is neatly mirrored by one of Dodd's exercises, in which Freddie is forced to pace a room and describe the same wall and the same window with new language each time. It's a film of breathtaking cinematic romanticism and near-complete denial of conventional catharsis. You might wish it gave you more in terms of comfort-food pleasure, but that's not Anderson's problem. You've just seen too many movies about incommunicative fuck-ups who manage to break down their defenses at some convenient third-act moment. By not opening up that valve, The Master forces the question of whether personality change is possible — or even advisable.

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