The Master: A Movie Review

I hated the movie The Master almost as much as I hated last year’s The Tree of Life (which was nominated for an Academy Award).  Both movies are pretentious, overly long, and ultimately a total waste of time.

The Master is a buddy movie, examining the relationship between a new age svengali (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and a dysfunctional and alcoholic World War II veteran (Joaquin Phoenix).  There isn’t much of a plot, just a collection of overly-long scenes graphed together.  Most the interaction in this period piece takes place within a relatively short span of time.

The movie’s prologue and epilogue are totally useless and difficult to watch.  They are extremely graphic and add nothing to the movie.

On rottentomatoes.com, The Master received an 85 percent approval rating and it has been suggested in several reviews that this movie will be nominated for an Academy Award, as should the two lead actors.  But its hard for me to tell if Phoenix is acting or just playing himself.  As for Hoffman, he is an excellent actor, but here he seems to be simply emoting.

It has been suggested that The Master is an assault on Scientology.  (Apparently Hoffman looks a little like L.Ron Hubbard.)  It portrays the religion, if you want to call it that, as new age bullshit coupled with ideas taken from eastern religions.  And that the Hoffman character is sort of making it up as he goes along.

Although I’m not a fan of Scientology, and know little about it, this seems like dangerous territory.  Making fun of another person’s religion is one thing (think The Book of Mormon here), but this kind of frontal attack is somewhat difficult to understand.

One could make a similar movie about any number of “modern” religions.  Hoffman could play a Joseph-Smith-like character (he would need to lose a few pounds) or a good actress could play someone like Mary Baker Eddy.  And Phoenix could again play himself.

The director has suggested that the movie is not so much about the Hoffman character (and Scientology) as it is about the Phoenix character, a WWII veteran with an extreme case of post-traumatic stress disorder.  But this latter role is so over the top, that it does little to illuminate this situation.

The Master is rated R, I assume for language (it gets pretty rough in spots) and sexuality (although none of it is erotic).  There are some serious cringe-inducing moments in this flic, with little or no payoff.  The acting talents of Amy Adams and Laura Dern are totally wasted.

After watching this movie, I felt like I needed to take a shower.

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