Friday, October 12, 2012

Jimbo Goes to the Movies: “The Master” Review

PTA’S latest Oscar-bait is here, and yeah, it is pretty freaking outstanding

The Master (2012)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson 

I caught “The Master” - PTA’s latest sure-fire, Academy-fellating Oscar-bait opus that totally ISN’T about Dianetics and stuff -a few nights ago, and yeah, I thought it was pretty freaking terrific, as does every other human being on the planet. I have to admit, I’m a huge mark for Paul Thomas Anderson’s work, as “There Will Be Blood,” “Punch Drunk Love” and “Magnolia” are all three of my favorite films from the last fifteen years or so, and while I don’t think “The Master” is necessarily on par with any of those movies, there’s no denying that it’s still one of the best flicks you’ll see this year.

The movie begins with Joaquin Phoenix stumbling around an island, pouring lighter fluid into coconuts and getting sloshed on the fruity, poisonous contents therein. After that, he decides to beat off into the Pacific Ocean before defiling a sand dune, and then he catches word that World War II has ended, so he celebrates by drinking the gasoline out of an undetonated missile. After the Japanese surrender, he tries to get a job as a cameraman at Sears, but he spends too much time getting liquored up and trying to make it with hand models at Macy’s to make anything out of it. He gets into a fistfight with this fat guy, so he has to get a new job whacking cabbages for a living. Of course, he spends most of his tenure there making highly toxic alcoholic beverages, which results in the probable death of at least one elderly worker. Ran out of town by sickle-wielding Latinos, he comes across a party being held on a yacht, which he decides to crash. He wakes up the next day with a massive hangover, and even worse, Philip Seymour Hoffman standing over him.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman - in what is almost assuredly a Best Supporting Actor-locking performance - plays a very L. Ron Hubbard-ish figure that has all of these grand, highfalutin ideas about time travel and past lives and all of that junk. He’s managed to sell his shtick to a bunch of rich socialites, and he takes a liking to Joaquin’s character because he digs his paint thinner and orange juice mixers. Hoffmann decides to interview Joaquin, in a really great scene where Joaquin tries to keep from blinking while he talks about the time he did it with his own aunt.

As it turns out, Joaquin’s big psychological problem is that he abandoned his high-school aged lover to join the navy, and yeah, he feels pretty conflicted about that. Hoffman’s character decides to let Joaquin join his entourage, as they spread the gospel of “The Cause” - a really abstract, pseudo-scientific philosophy that’s just mildly less convoluted and intelligence insulting that Objectivism. At a mixer, some skeptic dude shows up and starts picking apart Hoffman’s theory, and Joaquin responds by going to his apartment at three in the morning and beating the hell out of him as a rebuttal.

After that, it’s subplot city, as we come to find out that Hoffman’s son doesn’t really believe that his dad is sincere about what he’s preaching. Meanwhile, Joaquin fantasizes about naked old people at social gatherings while Hoffman runs around doing these grandiose song and dance numbers. And oh yeah, there’s also a part where Amy Adams gives Hoffman a hand-shandy and insinuates that her husband is either gay or super-duper adulterous. Either way, she doesn’t seem to care, apparently.

Eventually, Hoffman gets busted for practicing medicine without a license, and Joaquin ends up in the slammer with him because he tries to wrestle a couple of cops that attempt to arrest his “leader.” Cue another fantastic scene where the two banter back and forth in side-by-side jail cells, with Joaquin going freaking crazy and breaking toilets and stuff while Hoffman just stands there, all cool and collected, before taking a really long pee.

So, Joaquin and Hoffman end being released and they patch up their differences, even though pretty much everybody in the group distrusts Phoenix. This leads to a very, very long montage sequence where Phoenix has to pass one of the “Cause’s” rituals, which he finally manages to complete. After that, he and Hoffman drive out into the desert and unearth one of Phil’s long-buried manifestos, which goes to print despite the fact that the book’s publisher thought it was a piece of crap (Joaquin responds, of course, by beating the poor dude into a bloody pulp.)

At a social mixer, one of Hoffman’s long-term followers drills him for changing up his philosophies in the new book, and during this really bizarre motorcycle-driving ritual, Joaquin decides to steal Hoffman’s ride and contact that one girl he left to join the navy. She’s married and moved off, and, quite surprisingly, Joaquin seems to take the news very well. After falling asleep during a “Casper, the Friendly Ghost” cartoon in a theater, Joaquin decides to hightail it to England with a pack of Kools and seek advice from his…mentor.

So, Hoffman and Phoenix have one final conversation, which ends with Phil singing a song about taking a rowboat ride to China. Joaquin decides to hit up a pub and sleep with a very, umm, English-looking woman, and the film concludes with Phoenix having another dream about that sand dune he humped at the beginning of the movie.

All in all, “The Master” is a downright terrific movie, albeit not exactly what I would deem as the year’s best overall motion picture (“Beasts of the Southern Wild” STILL gets that particular nod from me, by the way.) Unless Daniel Day-Lewis puts on the acting job of all acting jobs in “Lincoln,” Joaquin is pretty much guaranteed a Best Actor statuette for his performance in the film, and Hoffman might as well be clearing space on his awards mantle already. The rest of the cast is pretty good - if not unremarkable - while PTA does a commendable job helming the action. As before, I don’t think it’s as good as his previous work, but seeing as how literally everything the dude has made has been four star-material, it’s not like this is a major step down for him in any regard.

Long story short? You need to see this movie, because it’s awesome and an absolute acting clinic. That said, I do have one word of warning before heading into it: at two and half hours long, this is NOT a movie you need to be seeing after chowing down on some itis-inducing foodstuffs. I had an enormous plate of pesto gnocchi as a pre-movie dinner, and trust me…I have NEVER had to battle the Sandman so hard in a movie theater EVER.


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