“The Master”: A Boyfriend/Girlfriend Review


Sometimes I see movies with my significant other and we don’t quite see eye-to-eye (A.K.A. she is wrong and I am right) on whether the movie was “good” or “bad”.  Well, since I value honesty to my readers above all else I will present both views of the latest movie we both saw, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest in slow-paced dramas: The Master.

The Synopsis

The Master stars Joaquin Phoenix as Freddy Quell, a mentally unbalanced veteran who has a pension for getting in fights and mixing toxic ingredients to make his own special liquor.  When he runs across the charismatic religious teacher and author Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) he begins to adhere to his teachings, almost immediately becoming Dodd’s right-hand man and number one project.  Things begin to fall apart when Dodd’s qualifications as a teacher are questioned and his religion begins to resemble a cult.  Also, it’s totally totally not about Scientology, guys!

Pictured here: NOT L. Ron Hubbard.

The Boyfriend’s Rating: B (maybe B-)

Let me start by saying that I really like Paul Thomas Anderson’s work; There Will Be Blood is one of my favorite movies.  I went into The Master expecting something similar to Blood and wasn’t disappointed.  Like its predecessor, The Master was brilliantly acted, had a unique plot, utilized an interesting slow pace that created tension in scenes that would normally be boring and featured a brilliant soundtrack.  Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams all dazzle with amazing performances (Phoenix in particular shines as the dysfunctional and mentally unbalanced lead).

A new thing for him.

For me, there was something addictive about this movie.  I found the characters so bizarre and well performed that I couldn’t help but be engrossed by their every action.  The structure of the movie itself could almost be described as a Stanley Kubrick-esque.  It didn’t rely on any cheap thrills or gimmicks to catch your attention.  The cinematography was also interesting; shots would linger on one character for minutes at a time without moving, making the camera almost feel like a character in the movie itself.  There is one scene in particular where Phoenix’s character is chopping up a coconut and milk sprays slightly onto the camera, giving the scene a surreal feel.

The movie is, admittedly, very very slow and unnecessarily long but those are some of the only reasons I lowered the grade at all.  I also didn’t love the ending (it felt a bit anti-climatic).  Still, if you go in expecting There Will Be Blood I think you may enjoy it.

Although you will notice a lack of milkshake drinking.

The Girlfriend’s Rating: C- (if that)

To preface, let me begin by saying one thing about the difference between my darling boyfriend and I. While Mr. Dibble takes a very intellectual, artistic approach to his movie critiques, I’m all about the cheap thrills. Entertain me for 90 minutes, and I will approve your work.

Case in point: I watch this movie with astonishing regularity

That being said, The Master was a hellish nightmare for me. Honestly, it’s like Anderson forgot what business he works in (hint: it’s called the entertainment industry) and decided to do whatever the hell he wanted, which was apparently waste 137 precious minutes of the lives of people naïve enough to think the film would somehow be more exciting than the trailer. Here’s a note to all of us: we’re idiots. It isn’t.

I will say that Phoenix and Hoffman were remarkable. I didn’t leave the theatre part way through the drought of stimulation because of their performances. Adams’ character was interesting (there’s a memorable bathroom scene) and she executed it well, but I honestly think the three of them accepted their roles after reading the screenplay because they knew it would be a true test of their artistry to make the story (or lack thereof) not completely suck. They gave it their best effort, and I applaud them for that, but they failed.

It was kind of like sending this guy to put out a forest fire.

I’ve never watched the time as intently as I did during that never-ending 137 minutes. And I’m in my last year of college, so I’ve sat through a lot of lectures. I spent the last half of the movie pondering how to retrieve my phone and look up the length of the movie without ruining the experience for my boyfriend so I would know how much more I had to suffer through.

Critics will love this movie because it’s boring and long and serious. Some guys might like it because there are a lot of breasts. I’m not enticed by any of those things so whatever The Master had to offer was basically lost on me. And I agree with my boyfriend, the ending was anticlimactic. But the whole film basically was (the first shot of the movie is absolutely gorgeous) so I guess Anderson gets points for consistency.

P.S. I’m not the only one who felt this way. As soon as the credits started to roll, some man stood up in the theatre and asked all (eight) of us who had sat through the whole film, “Well, was that the worst movie you every saw or what?”

Who do you agree with?  Let us know in the comments!

Songs boyfriend listened to while writing this: I’m still on a Starf****r kick so I just listened to them.

Songs girlfriend listened to while writing this: “Radio” by Lana Del Rey, “Shampain” by Marina & the Diamonds, “DNA” by The Kills, “Salt Skin” by Ellie Goulding, “The Harold Song” by Ke$ha

Sources: imdb.com, movieblogbuster.com, telegraph.co.uk, blogs.indiewire.com, miserableretailslave.com, fuzzmartin.com, insidethecostumebox.blogspot.com, wikipedia.com, halloweencostumes.com.


3 thoughts on ““The Master”: A Boyfriend/Girlfriend Review

  1. I think “the girlfriend” hit it on the head when she claimed that this movie will be loved by movie critics because “it’s boring and long and serious.” Just because a movie is “artsy” doesn’t make it art. Like calling it a film doesn’t make it more than a movie. Or Jackson Pollock an artist when it’s really just a knocked-over bucket.

    Though you both gave level handed assessments, I think we all know that someone who spends their time watching Surf Nazi’s: Must Die probably won’t convince me to see anything else. Ever again.

    Lastly, and most unhelpfully: pensions are things given, usually in return for a service. Tendency might work better. Film watched instead: Looper. Dear sweet baby jesus….

  2. I guess the girlfriend didn’t think the Master was as fetch as the boyfriend did. Emm I right? Sorry I had to. It was terrible and I apologize but I refuse to retract my statement.

  3. Have not seen the movie, but I’m taking “girlfriend” on her word and skipping this one. It sounds painfully bad. My simple mind just wants to be entertained and it doesn’t sound to me that this film does any entertaining.

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