Movie Mom

Movie Mom


The Master

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Adult
MPAA Rating:Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, and language
Profanity:Extremely strong, explicit, and crude language
Nudity/Sex:Very explicit sexual references and situations, graphic nudity, pornography
Alcohol/Drugs:Smoking, drinking and drunkenness
Movie Release Date:September 21, 2012

In the sixth movie from virtuoso writer-director P.T. Anderson (“There Will be Blood,” “Boogie Nights”), we see Freddie (Joaquin Phoenix) pause on the dock to look at what seems like the ultimate dream of civilization, a party on board a luxurious yacht filled with light, glamour, elegance, and belonging.  He served in the Navy in WWII and his adjustment to civilian life has been troubled.  Now, after losing his jobs as a department store portrait photographer and a field worker, with no connection to any thing or person or place or plan and no special skill except for the ability to make very potent alcoholic drinks out of whatever chemicals are at hand, the glow of the party and the people on the ship draws him in with a combination of the exotic and the familiar.  He hops over the railing like an experienced sailor and somehow both improbably and inevitably he is taken in by the group and its leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman), called Lancaster Dodd by the authorities but Master by everyone else.

The party is for Dodd’s daughter, who is getting married.  The Master himself is performing the ceremony, but more than that, as we will see him do throughout the story, he acts as a full-time master-of ceremonies as much as he is a teacher or leader of what seem to be a perpetual group of rapt followers.  He invites Freddie to join them, and to keep making his powerfully intoxicating (and memory-destroying) elixer.

The Master’s acolytes are subjected to a series of private and public interviews, where they are asked to reveal the most intimate details of their lives, and seemingly random and sometimes humiliating tasks.  The followers sit in chairs as though they are watching a play as Freddie paces back and forth between the window and the wall, ordered to describe what he sees.  The Master, who describes himself as to Freddie as “a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist and a theoretical philosopher, but above all, I am a man, a hopelessly inquisitive man, just like you.”  Self-aggrandizing, pompously un-pompous, and demonstrably false on its face.  If Dodd was in fact inquisitive, he would have noticed that Freddie is not at all inquisitive.  He operates entirely on instinct and lives almost entirely in the moment, musing only about his lost love, a 16-year-old neighbor he romantically idealizes though he has not seen or contacted her for years, and about his most animalistic carnal urges.  At the group’s evening gathering, he imagines all of the women naked — old, young, even the pregnant wife of the Master (Amy Adams).

It is sumptuously photographed in 70mm (try to see it on the big screen it was shot to fill), and has a jumpy, provocative score by Jonny Greenwood punctuated with retro standards from the American Songbook.  Ella Fitzgerald sings “Get Thee Behind Me Satan” as Freddie tries to keep his impulses in check.  The performances are breathtaking in their scope, commitment, intelligence, and humanity.  The frequent clashes of styles between Phoenix’s nearly feral Method approach, Hoffman’s more thoughtful, structure, and Adams’ iron-willed emotionalism are like timed flares going off to illuminate the story.  Freddie is referred to repeatedly as an able-bodied seaman but his body seems anything but able.  He is dark, stiff and hunched over, his elbows awkwardly extended back with his hands on his hips as his shoulders bend forward, his mouth twisted to one side when he speaks.  Hoffman’s blondness, brilliantly photographed by Mihai Malaimare Jr., makes him seem leonine.  He moves like a big, magnificent cat.  As in Anderson’s “Boogie Nights,” this is the story of a group of people who create a sort of family.  As in his “There Will Be Blood,” it is the story of two men held together by a complicated and sometimes toxic blend of fear, respect, longing, and power.  There is a chilliness and remove that keeps the struggle from feeling personal.  Perhaps it is a metaphor about post-WWII America, overwhelmed by its own success, audacious, overconfident, careless, and, as ever, struggling between head and heart, past and future, body and soul.

Parents should know that this film has very explicit sexual references and situations, including pornography, very explicit nudity, very strong language, and some disturbing themes.

Family discussion: Why did Dodd want to keep Freddie in the group?  What did they have in common?  Why was Helen upset by the change from “remember” to “imagine?”

If you like this, try:  “Magnolia” and “There Will Be Blood” by the same writer/director



  • Pingback: The Master « Christian Media Monitor

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Your Name

    What does the “very explicit nudity” consist of exactly? Thanks.

    • Nell Minow

      It means extended scenes of nude women.

Previous Posts

What Happened to All the Great Quotable Movie Lines?
Michael Cieply has a fascinating piece in the New York Times about the movie lines we love to quote and why there don't seem to be any new ones. Look through all of the top ten lists of the year, and see if you can think of one quotable line from any of them. That doesn't mean they aren't well wri

posted 3:58:57pm Dec. 20, 2014 | read full post »

George Clooney and the Cast of Downton Abbey
You don't have to be a fan of "Downton Abbey" (or "Mr. Selfridge") to love this hilarious spoof, with guest appearances by Jeremy Piven, George Clooney and the Absolutely Fabulous Joanna Lumley. [iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/ryo7fqdmcGQ?rel=0" frameborder="0"] [

posted 1:43:50pm Dec. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Ask Amy Says: A Book on Every Bed
I love to remind people about Amy Dickinson's wonderful "Book on Every Bed" proposal: Here’s how it happens: You take a book (it can be new or a favorite from your own childhood). You wrap it. On Christmas Eve (or whatever holiday you celebrate), you leave the book in a place where Santa is

posted 12:00:42pm Dec. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Matthew Llewellyn, Composer for Wally Lamb's "Wishin' and Hopin'"
Wishin' and Hopin' is Lifetime movie airing December 21, 2014, based on the novel by Wally Lamb. It stars Molly Ringwald and Meat Loaf with narration by Chevy Chase. Composer Matthew Llewellyn was kind enough to answer my questions about creating a score for this nostalgic holiday story. How d

posted 9:40:56am Dec. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Wild's Cheryl Strayed Has a New Advice Podcast
Before Wild, Cheryl Strayed was the pseudonymous "Dear Sugar" advice columnist for The Rumpus. Her columns were collected in Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. Writer Steve Almond (Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America) also wrote as Dear Su

posted 3:59:40pm Dec. 19, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.