For your consideration: Joaquin Phoenix in The Master.

For your consideration: Joaquin Phoenix in The Master.

Reel Reviews: Masterful performances helm film

The Master could clean up when it comes to Oscar time.

  • Nov. 4, 2012 6:00 p.m.

The Master is a film about a young man returning from the Second World War.

Freddy (Joaquin Phoenix,) wanders aimlessly and drunk through life until he finds a charismatic sci-fi author, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

Known as the Master, Dodd attempts to cure the mental bondage that ordinary folks carry around from past lives or ancient hardship.

The Master begins working on the young man and over the years, they develop a complex relationship. It is this relationship that pushes the story forward, not any similarity to certain real people.

Yet, The Master is a film anchored around L. Ron Hubbard and the beginnings of Scientology, circa 1950. The filmmakers changed the names of the people involved, presumably to distance themselves from fact for the sake of license, but the similarities are too numerous and precise to deny.

The film doesn’t delve deep into the beliefs of Scientologists, but rather displays a fiction placed at the inception of their methods. The film isn’t about Scientology, but it will help you understand it.

We say, “It’s Masterful.”

TAYLOR: This is the best film of the year. Obviously, we haven’t seen all the possible Oscar contenders for 2012, but I personally guarantee this film will be nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and although Philip Seymour Hoffman is brilliant (as usual), I’m sure Joaquin Phoenix will win Best Actor. His performance was amazing.

HOWE: What? Even better than Paranormal Activity? I will agree with you on it being a great film, but you have to remember that we have seen some other great movies this year, and I’m sure there will be one or two worthy before we are through. The Hobbit being one of them.

TAYLOR: Agreed, summer is over and seriousness awaits, but I think the weight of this tale, the raw emotional intensity of the performances and the subject matter will make The Master the one to beat. Phoenix’s role as the damaged soul was complicated and mesmerizing. Freddy is a character an actor prays for. I read that he was inspired in part by Jason Robard’s tales of drunken exploits in the navy. Freddy could have had an excellent movie by himself. To throw L. Ron Hubbard, I mean, Lancaster Dodd, into the mix creates magic.

HOWE: I couldn’t agree more. The whole cast did an amazing job from the nervous son-in-law Clark, played by Rami Malek, to Dodd’s strong-willed wife Peggy (Amy Adams). What I really enjoyed though was Seymour Hoffman’s performance as the charismatic Master. One minute playing Mr. Nice Guy, the next just flipping out. Fantastic.

TAYLOR: I’ve read online that some people find The Master confusing because Dodd is somewhat baffling. These people don’t realize they are searching for logic at the creation of a religion. Silly humans, if you want to really understand the backstory, simply read the Wikipedia page on Scientology. Then see The Master before he ascends.

–– Howe gives The Master 4 audits out of 5.

–– Taylor gives it 5 trapped souls out of 5.

The film is currently showing at the Vernon Towne Cinema.

–– Brian Taylor and Peter Howe are movie critics living in Vernon, B.C.