Alex’s review published on Letterboxd:
As a huge fan of PTA's previous work, I saw The Master pretty much as soon as it was released in Australia. In a rough-looking Luna cinema (Grand and Event Cinemas steered well clear), with about 5 other people present, I saw a film I knew was on a different level to most. Both myself and my brother whom I saw it with had little to say when it finished, both a little confused and overwhelmed by what is a quite challenging piece of work. But as the days passed I became convinced that what I saw was a masterpiece and would forever find a place in my favourites' list.
The most note-worthy aspect of The Master is undoubtedly the acting. Even in such a highly accomplished all-round piece of film-making, the acting stands out like a sore thumb. Both Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman give performances that stand up to anything ever put to film. Their characters are complex and interesting on paper, and Phoenix and Hoffman have brought them to life with nuance and passion. Amy Adams also holds her own; in a less interesting role she is completely convincing. I also really enjoyed the late Christopher Evan Welch's short role, as the man who challenges Hoffman's Dodd in one the film's many amazing scenes.
While The Master is often given credit for being a dense and challenging piece of work, I don't think it gets the credit it deserves for either the humour and pathos it contains. There are regular moments of laugh out loud humour- usually Phoenix's Freddie's oddness- and they certainly help to ease the load of such a hefty tale. But there is also a great deal of emotion here- specifically sadness, loneliness, regret- that gives the film some real gut-punching moments. The relationships between Freddie and The Master, which I never in any way see as homosexual, is one of the most interesting and emotionally powerful I've ever seen.
It's not for everyone -my girlfriend lasted 8 minutes and groans when she sees my watching it- but if you can get on board with The Master, you'll be rewarded for life.