Lise’s review published on Letterboxd:
Film 2 of TIFF 2012
Ok, rushed for time here, but let me explain briefly why I didn't rate this film any higher. I think my husband put it best: It looks and feels like PTA was remaking There Will Be Blood but with a different story and different characters. Unfortunately, it didn't work.
As in There Will Be Blood, the main character is flawed. But Joaquin Phoenix ain't no Daniel Day Lewis. I didn't believe his character at all. I found his quirks to be mere distractions and I didn't care what happened to the character for a full 3/4 of the film. It didn't help that there were scenes I felt were contrived simply to show Phoenix' temper but didn't include any hint of his motivation at all (for example there is one scene where Phoenix, a photographer, brings the lights closer and closer to his subject until the man gets angry and they get in a fight.) What was that all about? It just came out of the blue.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is good as the Master, as he always is, but the character is just flat. There doesn't seem to be any kind of arc to this character. Nothing happens to change him during the entire film. Oh sure there are a few dramatic moments, but they don't ever amount to anything. Amy Adams is also good as the Master's wife, but again it seems like here character is there simply to dislike Phoenix. So in the end no one likes Phoenix' character except for the Master. Ok, now what? Now nothing. They get along, they get into trouble, they fight and then they get along again. No one changes. All that is left is the plot. The Master basically hypnotizes people into believing his hogwash. Sometimes he is successful, sometimes not. That's it.
Of course there are some truly beautiful scenes and some memorable ones. The film isn't a complete disaster. But story and character are essential in a film about a character and his story and I didn't find anything compelling about either.