01/11/2012

The Master

A new Paul Thomas Anderson film is always met with excitement and reverence before anyone has even seen anything so the critical acclaim thrown at The Master during its festival run should've come as a surprise to no one. Critics love him for his dedication to his work and disdain for Hollywood celebrity so it's safe to say that they'll love what he does no matter what; an unfair assumption, you might say, given that of all the films I've seen of his are pretty excellent, but as much as I tried I just couldn't get down with The Master.

After dragging myself out of bed to see it in 70mm, things quickly went to pot as the sound and screen weren't synced, and before you can say "well-paid, middle-aged film critics collectively lose their shit due to poor film projection", a nervous looking gent (understandable considering pissed off film critics can be right cunts) stood at the front and apologised profusely for the fact that we were going to have to watch the film in digital instead. WOE IS US.

But anyway, back to the film: The Master follows damaged World War II vet Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix, looking all sorts of insane) as he tries to adjust to normality and befriends Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman, challenging Ben Affleck for the "Best Movie Facial Hair of 2012" award), a leader of a philosophical movement known as "The Cause" who enjoys Freddie's homemade hooch and invites him into the movement despite the fact that he's clearly insane. We follow them around as he teaches his crackpot theories and witness the changing dynamics of their relationship and, well, that's about it.

143 minutes float by and the lead characters barely change or justify their existence and by the 120th minute I was hoping for the sweet release of death...or sleep. It looks stunning and is chocked full of strong performances but is far from being the absorbing masterpiece everyone is saying it is. In fact, the entire thing went over my (admittedly empty) head and moved slower than a Kardashian's train of thought. At this point the best thing to get from The Master is the fact that Joaquin Phoenix - who appears to have aged about 40 years since Walk The Line - is gonna lose his shit if he's forced onto the awards trail by The Weinstein Company. Here's what he recently said about going to the Oscars:

"I'm just saying that I think it's bullshit. I think it's total, utter bullshit, and I don't want to be a part of it. I don't believe in it. It's a carrot, but it's the worst-tasting carrot I've ever tasted in my whole life. I don't want this carrot. It's totally subjective. Pitting people against each other . . . It's the stupidest thing in the whole world. It was one of the most uncomfortable periods of my life when Walk the Line was going through all the awards stuff and all that. I never want to have that experience again. I don't know how to explain it—and it's not like I'm in this place where I think I'm just above it—but I just don't ever want to get comfortable with that part of things."

Here's hoping he pulls a Marlon Brando and sends someone else in his place to throw mouldy carrots at all the attention-seeking idiots on the red carpet. Now that would be entertaining!