Milez Das’s review published on Letterboxd:
Lancaster Dodd: If you figure a way to live without serving a master, any master, then let the rest of us know, will you? For you'd be the first person in the history of the world.
Recently Tom Hanks said that we have Paul Thomas Anderson whose movies can't be explained in 20 minutes. I mean how can we? Once we sit and talk about the works of Paul Thomas Anderson, you don't even know where the time and days went.
When I first saw The Master, I never really understood the depth PTA portrayed through his characters. I just saw a man lost, stumbled upon a Master who tries to make him his test subject for his Cause trying to improve him but at the end it is small of a fraction that someone like Freddie could ever change.
We meet Freddie Quell who is a sex-obsessed alcoholic World War II veteran struggling to adjust to post-war society. He is fired from his job as a photographer and chased off from his new job at a cabbage farm. He meets Lancaster Dodd, the leader of a nascent philosophical movement known as "The Cause" who lets Freddie stay on the yacht as long as he will make more of his mysterious brew.
There form a connection between Lancaster and Freddie as The Master and his protégé. Freddie is lost, drunk and is not really forming his place in the society. Lancaster is traveling and spreading his methods and movement called Cause. Freddie becomes the perfect test subject he can use and rally around if it becomes successful. Freddie believes in Lancaster and that he can cure him from whatever he has lost himself form.
But when Lancaster's son tells him that his father is making all of this up as he goes along, Freddie has a doubt about that. The scene in the jail where both Freddie and Lancaster scream at each other really sorts these two characters in the same path but with different responsibilities.
The Master is often paralleled with Scientology and its founder L. Ron Hubbard. Lancaster's methods are often questioned in the film, Lancaster gets defensive at first saying he can't change a mind which is already set but takes a moment of anger when it reaches his boiling point which we see on few occasions. You can observe how his methods are really made along he goes, he himself studies and improvise. Freddie's treatment become repetitive and frustrating with no result but suddenly it is said he is cured. But on what basis.
The story is layered through its characters. The world we see is through Freddie's eyes and how he saw The Cause and The Master. Everyone is Master of his own life but at the same time the person needs someone to guide or give him or her the sense of hope or satisfaction that there is something within you that you can improve.
There are many things to question here but what answers are we looking for really? Freddie will always be the same person with some additional knowledge he got from Lancaster. Lancaster will make his way as he goes with his wife Peggy who stands firm in creation of The Cause.
Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell is a pillar of his characters failures and intoxications. Looking for a cleanse his submission to The Master plays into a same wavelength. The body language Joaquin embraces, the way he talks and walks is really something really fascinating to watch.
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd is like 2.0 version of Freddie. He appears strong but is weak, you can see from the conversation he has with his wife. He is fragile but appears charismatic. He is a man with empty promises, he will talk you into his imaginations and works he made but as for result it is you who have to find out.
Amy Adams as Peggy plays a strong supporting role with her limited screen time. Her character is the driving force for Lancaster Dodd.
The Master is crafter through its characters. Paul Thomas Anderson dissect's every aspect of this movie through them with his grand and masterful vision he shows two men who are fragile, weak and yet try to stand above in the path that they feel is right and will lead to something that will clear their souls. The grand cinematography, the shots of the sea, the conversations... Jonny Greenwood's score. The Master is one of the best film of 21st Century that just makes you appreciate more and more with each viewing.
We Miss You, Philip Seymour Hoffman...