The Master - Film Review


The Master - Film Review



Having an unexpected free afternoon I took myself off to my local cinema to catch The Master, a film I had long intended taking in. They weren’t packing the customers in that afternoon I can tell you, being just four other souls present, and one of those left after ten minutes, not a great start.

    The film opens as World War II is drawing to a final close. Freddie Quell played by Joaquin Phoenix is serving with US forces somewhere in the Pacific. He’s not alone in being judged to have mental difficulties after what he’s been through, and seen, though whether the interviews he goes through afterwards gives him any benefit is open to question. He just about gets by through brewing and selling firewater containing paint thinners, aftershave, and anything else remotely suitable he can lay his hands on.

  Back in civvy street he drifts through a series of jobs including becoming a photographer in an upmarket department store where you just know with his aggressive demeanour it’s only a matter of time before he wallops a customer, a fat guy whose not afraid of mixing it and walloping back.

   Freddie’s still brewing hooch as he is chased from a farm after poisoning some old guy there, and goes on the run and ends up on some Pacific quayside. There’s a small passenger ship there making ready to sail, there’s a party going on on the stern, a band playing, pretty girls dancing, what more could a drifter in need of a drink and female company need? He jumps aboard and stows away and joins the party.

   Of course he doesn’t know the ship is the floating base for the Master, some guru quasi religious guy that I am led to believe owes more than a touch to Scientology.

   Philip Seymour Hoffman acts his butt off, doing his best Orson Wells impression, you have to admit he is very watchable, whist opposite Phoenix mumbles his way through the picture reminding me a touch of Marlon Brando. It’s not long before Freddie becomes the Master’s enforcer, though he could not possibly condone such behaviour, and from there the cult really begins to take off.

   The film was pretty much ignored at the Oscars and it isn’t hard to see why. The picture is set primarily in the early fifties and certainly looks the part, but there was little humour in it, and not really much of a story either. It’s not a film for the family, they would be bored to tears, and if you really wanted to see a film about Scientology, you’d be better off watching one of the BBC documentaries on that strange organisation.

   I wanted to be impressed, I wanted to be entertained, I wanted to enjoy the picture, I wanted to tell my friends that I had been right, that it was a great film, but it was just too much of an effort, and inevitably I came away being disappointed

   It’s a long film too, 144 minutes, and there were times when it really felt like it. True, the leading characters were well worth watching but overall I came away disappointed. The reviews had been so good too. Sorry, but for me, it didn’t live up to the hype. Fact was, I could have found something better to do with my afternoon.

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