The MasterDirector: Paul Thomas Anderson, Weinstein Company, Rated MA, 144 mins
It is five years since Paul Thomas Anderson directed his academy award winning movie There will be Blood (released in 2007), with his latest venture being an apparent expose of an American cult that appears synonymous to the Scientology movement of today.
In The Master Anderson has pitched his storyline in a totally cerebral and somewhat confusing manner relying on the two main protagonists to define the impact of a cult on the American way of life in the 1950’s.
The first of these characters is Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix - Gladiator) who has difficulty keeping a job due to his addictive alcoholism (caused mainly by his home brewing efforts) coupled with a terrible temper brought on from his post-traumatic war experience while the second is Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Ides of March) the charismatic leader of a scientific cult known as “The Cause” and a man filled with his self importance.
After his accidental meeting with Freddie, Lancaster decides to take him under his wing in the hope of redeeming him through his psychological processing sessions - even bringing Freddie into his home much to the displeasure of Lancaster’s wife Peggy (Amy Adams - The Fighter) and the rest of his family.
But in the end it appears that even Freddie has seen through Lancaster’s manipulative behaviour of his followers.
Phoenix’s portrayal of his pitiful character is distressingly disappointing despite Hoffman delivering a masterful performance as Lancaster Dodd The Master, ably assisted by the charming Adams in a supporting role as his often subservient wife.
Anderson may have been attempting to provide some interesting insight into an American scientology movement but this has been somewhat spoilt by the inclusion of a series of strange sequences that simply don’t make sense which is further exacerbated by the length of the movie.
VIC'S VERDICT: 2 ½ Rubber Stamps
The Five Year EngagementDirector: Nicholas Stoller, Universal Sony Pictures, Rated MA, 124 mins
This charming romantic comedy from director Nicholas Stoller is an amusing story of a couple who get engaged but end up delaying their marriage due to the would be bride’s career move. The two people are Tom (Jason Segal) and Violet (Emily Blunt) who meet at a New Year’s Eve’s party which culminates in a marriage proposal a year later.
Following their engagement party, wedding plans are underway until Violet receives an offer from the University of Michigan, resulting in their wedding being postponed.
Tom then misses out on the head chef position at his restaurant which is given to his best friend, requiring both to move to Michigan to enable Violet to undertake her two year study program.
In addition, the wedding postponement disappoints Violet’s mother Sylvia (Aussie actress Jacki Weaver in a minor role) as well as the couple’s parents who are distressed that some grandparents may not be around when they do get married.
Tom’s resentment continues to build having had to accept a less prestigious position at a deli which is heightened by his deteriorating relationship with Violet after learning that her university professor Winton Childs (Rhys Ifans) is after her, even offering a position at the university after completing her studies.
This latter development is the final straw, leaving the audience to wonder if Tom and Violet will ever get married.
Stoller’s take on a long engagement shows some of the amusing antics that can cause such a situation to occur but it is their chemistry (Blunt and Segal) that is the real highlight of this amusing movie.
Furthermore it is Blunt who again is the main attraction, shining as she did in Wild Target and being the main cause for the extended engagement - until the surprise in the concluding scenes.
VIC'S VERDICT: 3 ½ Rubber Stamps
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