The Master

First slide

Literate but sterile drama in which a beleaguered, alcoholic World War II veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) becomes a drifter after being demobilized, then crosses paths with a charismatic cult leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman). He becomes a favored follower of the would-be prophet, but his inner demons keep their relationship tumultuous. Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson embellishes his meticulously crafted period piece with striking visuals, and draws intense performances from his leads. But neither the tormented vet nor the clever peddler of crackpot ideas makes a particularly sympathetic figure, so that following them eventually becomes wearing. More fundamentally, a degraded view of human sexuality and excessive explicitness in its portrayal make these proceedings, however artistically impressive in some respects, unsuitable for all.

Watch out for: Strong sexual content, including graphic nonmarital sexual activity, full nudity and masturbation, references to incest and venereal disease, some scatological humor, at least one use of profanity, frequent rough and occasional crude language.

Rated: O; MPAA: R

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970