The Master

User Score
7.1

Generally favorable reviews- based on 477 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 77 out of 477

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User Reviews

  1. Sep 18, 2012
    0
    It's tempting to label opaque films as profound. Their ambiguity hints at a well of feeling percolating just beneath the surface, one that touches on pain, loss, sadness, everything it is to be human. But, and this may be a hard pill to swallow, sometimes opaque films are just that: opaque. They are pointless exercises in nebulous action and inactive structure for the sake of appearingIt's tempting to label opaque films as profound. Their ambiguity hints at a well of feeling percolating just beneath the surface, one that touches on pain, loss, sadness, everything it is to be human. But, and this may be a hard pill to swallow, sometimes opaque films are just that: opaque. They are pointless exercises in nebulous action and inactive structure for the sake of appearing profound. The Master falls into this category. It is a full 2.5 hours of unbridled fatuous nonsense. Paul Thomas Anderson, who is no doubt a talented writer/director, seems to have gotten lost in his own reputation for literary mystique, and the result is one of the more narcissistic pieces of films I've had the displeasure of watching. Be assured that if any no-name writer/director submitted this script for financing, he/she would have been met with a resounding chorus of criticism, and the project would never have gotten off the ground. The Master presents no story, no real characters, nothing beyond a handsomely shot vacuous mess. The film's climactic moments fail to stir an emotional response because they signify nothing grander than the cinematic arrogance of an auteur that relishes the label auteur. If ever there was an example of narcissism in film, The Master is it. As for the throngs of adoring fans, I would only suggest that artistic output, particularly vague, nonsensical artistic output, has the unique ability to coerce accolades by intimidation. To suggest that there is nothing profound in The Master is to open oneself up to the criticism that he/she was incapable of picking up on the films nuances. It's tempting instead to nod along with the discordant soundtrack and addled story structure and pretend to get it. But I don't feel like nodding along to this because there is nothing here to get. And the unending stream of praise might be the most pointed example of insecurity since the Emperor sauntered out in public wearing his new clothes. Expand
  2. Sep 22, 2012
    2
    In the end, the film is self-important- a hodgepodge of shiftless vignettes that add up to something tiresomely less than their sum. An incredible acting performance from Phoenix is diminished and finally dissolved in a stagnant reservoir of anti-plot where the maddening fact that nothing ever happens is justified audaciously and insultingly by the old highbrow notion that eachIn the end, the film is self-important- a hodgepodge of shiftless vignettes that add up to something tiresomely less than their sum. An incredible acting performance from Phoenix is diminished and finally dissolved in a stagnant reservoir of anti-plot where the maddening fact that nothing ever happens is justified audaciously and insultingly by the old highbrow notion that each non-happening is so meaningful in itself as to make the need for story irrelevant. Adding salt to the wound, the audience is consistently made to feel guilty and ashamed for its terribly middle class inability to appreciate or connect with such a vaunted and critically acclaimed "masterpiece." Viewers are finally left to wonder if even Scientology itself could take their eleven dollars while offering such straight-faced, masturbatory nonsense in return. Expand
  3. Sep 23, 2012
    1
    I use metacritic to help make my movie selections, so someone needs to say this! Yes, good acting. Yes, unusual music, though disturbing. Yes, good cinematography that you expect for any movie. But expected for any movie is a plot, a story, a reason to exist, to watch, to understand, to persuade, to enjoy or even to hate. There's nothing here. After 2 1/2 hours, thankfully it ends andI use metacritic to help make my movie selections, so someone needs to say this! Yes, good acting. Yes, unusual music, though disturbing. Yes, good cinematography that you expect for any movie. But expected for any movie is a plot, a story, a reason to exist, to watch, to understand, to persuade, to enjoy or even to hate. There's nothing here. After 2 1/2 hours, thankfully it ends and you're grateful that you at least had a comfy chair and hot buttered popcorn to waste your time! Expand
  4. Sep 23, 2012
    0
    I am with the other 19 reviewers giving this a negative review. People think way too hard. Any one who was coming out of this thinking that the movie was some grand statement or beautiful work saw a different movie than what I saw. I kept wanting to leave the movie, and didn't--just because I thought maybe, just maybe it would get better in the end. I have never run out of a theatre asI am with the other 19 reviewers giving this a negative review. People think way too hard. Any one who was coming out of this thinking that the movie was some grand statement or beautiful work saw a different movie than what I saw. I kept wanting to leave the movie, and didn't--just because I thought maybe, just maybe it would get better in the end. I have never run out of a theatre as fast as I did when that was over. It was really just a bore, and made me very, very upset, and taught me not to use Metacritic to pick which movies to see. Please don't see this. I'll feel bad if you do. Expand
  5. Sep 16, 2012
    8
    It's an absolutely beautiful film - shot for shot - especially if you're seeing it in 70mm. A couple of shots, actually, were probably the most amazing I've ever seen (ie., the boat leaving SF Harbor). Phoenix and Hoffman deliver absolutely phenomenal performances - I was transfixed by the first couple of "processing" sequences. The jailhouse scene is incredible. What prevented it fromIt's an absolutely beautiful film - shot for shot - especially if you're seeing it in 70mm. A couple of shots, actually, were probably the most amazing I've ever seen (ie., the boat leaving SF Harbor). Phoenix and Hoffman deliver absolutely phenomenal performances - I was transfixed by the first couple of "processing" sequences. The jailhouse scene is incredible. What prevented it from getting a higher score from me what that it loosened up toward the end and lost some focus. It simply wasn't as coherent and tight as the artists best work - There Will Be Blood, Punch Drunk Love, et al. Expand
  6. Sep 22, 2012
    0
    This movie should be called "Blah, Blah, Blah". I tried to love it. I wanted to love it. I admire and respect all the creative artists involved. It was pretty. It was well acted. But somewhere in the second hour (it would be incorrect to call it an "act", there are no "acts" in this film), I found myself wanted to chew through my arms to release myself from the theater. Perhaps if IThis movie should be called "Blah, Blah, Blah". I tried to love it. I wanted to love it. I admire and respect all the creative artists involved. It was pretty. It was well acted. But somewhere in the second hour (it would be incorrect to call it an "act", there are no "acts" in this film), I found myself wanted to chew through my arms to release myself from the theater. Perhaps if I had seen it in 70 mm the drive, character arcs or (god forbid art house movie lovers)... the PLOT might have been revealed in greater detail. As it was, I left shaking my head and wondering what I could have done if I got those 2 1/2 hours back... Expand
  7. Sep 21, 2012
    5
    Whenever the critics rate a movie above 80 I start to get nervous. The closer to 100 the movie gets to 100 the chance the movie will be either great or an "artsie" disaster. This movie was long, dull at times, and its message was obscure. It wasn't a disaster but too "artsie" to be enjoyable. Most in the theatre left with a look of "what did I just spend 2 hours looking at". I gaveWhenever the critics rate a movie above 80 I start to get nervous. The closer to 100 the movie gets to 100 the chance the movie will be either great or an "artsie" disaster. This movie was long, dull at times, and its message was obscure. It wasn't a disaster but too "artsie" to be enjoyable. Most in the theatre left with a look of "what did I just spend 2 hours looking at". I gave the movie a solid 5 Expand
  8. Mar 3, 2013
    0
    A long lamentable movie that has no positive qualities. It is among the most lifeless pieces of cinema I have ever seen. Why people love this movie is beyond my comprehension; it is just deplorable on every single level.
  9. Sep 22, 2012
    1
    I could not, for the life of me, believe in the premise of the movie, that the Seymour-Hoffman character was supposed to be this charismatic figure people flocked to. His character was so uncharismatic, so completely banal -- why would any of the characters in the movie be interested in anything he said? I was bored beyond caring halfway through the movie and wished I was watching BurtI could not, for the life of me, believe in the premise of the movie, that the Seymour-Hoffman character was supposed to be this charismatic figure people flocked to. His character was so uncharismatic, so completely banal -- why would any of the characters in the movie be interested in anything he said? I was bored beyond caring halfway through the movie and wished I was watching Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry instead. Expand
  10. Sep 23, 2012
    2
    I sat through this movie for almost 2 hours wondering where it was going and when. Maybe it was to artsy or just over my head. Whatever it was, I haven't been so confused about a movie since Memento, even Memento made you think. The master will probably win an Oscar, it only made me feel like I was punked.
  11. Jun 25, 2013
    9
    Paul Thomas Anderson continues to mesmerise us with his gripping and powerful and intriguing techniques of film, and the journey doesn't stop with The Master,even if the film never fully let's us in on the whole plan.
    Joaquin Phoenix also proves once again that he is one of the finest and most hard working actors of his time with his performance as Freddie Quell, a man who Phoenix could
    Paul Thomas Anderson continues to mesmerise us with his gripping and powerful and intriguing techniques of film, and the journey doesn't stop with The Master,even if the film never fully let's us in on the whole plan.
    Joaquin Phoenix also proves once again that he is one of the finest and most hard working actors of his time with his performance as Freddie Quell, a man who Phoenix could have you convinced is very much real and sitting next to you, his personality erratic and broken after finding it extremely difficult adjusting to life after serving in World War II, his behaviour lands him in various amounts of trouble as he decides to take up portrait photography, but is continued abuse of alcohol and sexual obsession causes him nothing but problems, then Lancaster Dodd comes along, played by the growing phenomenon of acting that is Philip Seymour Hoffman, who in the film plays a man who is the leader of a movement of what can be outlined as free thinking and overcoming all sorts of issues, he truly has all the answers.
    His approach to therapy along with his family is frowned upon by many, they stay in the houses of their followers while his wife Peggy (Amy Adams) sees that Freddie may be their downfall. The true outline of the film is how human behaviour and a large array of personalities can collide, Quell is damaged, erratic and full of surprise, almost bipolar, while Dodd is a collected and content man, with goals and ambitions always in his sight, his motives are unclear and these are indeed hidden from the viewer, a technique that works on many occasions, but at times can become puzzling and may be misinterpreted.
    A score from the same composer of There Will Be Blood has its important and pivotal part in this thrilling film, a mixture of sombre but upbeat tones perfectly mirrors the difference in characters who are bound to collide at some point.
    The opacity that people are diving at to destroy the film is the ideal way for the viewer to interpret this film how they see fit, the movement that is prominent throughout the film is reminiscent of Scientology, and while not as horrific as The People's Temple, the flashes of mastery and looking to one true person leave it to the lucky viewer to decide exactly what is happening, plenty of questions lead to an array of interesting answers.
    A powerful and enthralling effort that will not cease to amaze in terms of performances and writing, you won't get these performances "staring at a wall".
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  12. Feb 3, 2013
    10
    Where do I begin with this mystical masterpiece, and where do I end? Off the heels of his modern day classic, The Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson constructs yet another challenging art film that’s sure to mystify and perplex viewers across the globe in The Master. The film follows Freddie Quell, an unstable drifter fueled by alcohol, who recently returned from the Second World War.Where do I begin with this mystical masterpiece, and where do I end? Off the heels of his modern day classic, The Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson constructs yet another challenging art film that’s sure to mystify and perplex viewers across the globe in The Master. The film follows Freddie Quell, an unstable drifter fueled by alcohol, who recently returned from the Second World War. Plunged deep within his most basic animalistic instincts, Quell stumbles upon the charismatic, self-actualized man known as Lacaster Dodd, who leads a movement (cult!) called the Cause. Dodd sees this man as a new challenge, and the film treks his attempt to tame this beast that is Freddie Quell. Is Dodd truly the Master (as he is commonly referred to in the film) or is it Quell who has mastered and embraced his animalistic instinct… One could even go further to question if Dodd’s wife (played with chilly precision by Amy Adams!!), who seems to be married to the Cause, has more clout than she lets on. Clearly inspired by scientology and its founding father, L. Ron Hubbard, the movie attempts to indulge us without being too candid. Its open ended-ness begs you to question whether there was any real resolution or if the extensive, thought provoking process was worth it. But these are the raging questions that make you appreciate this complex piece of work even more. Anderson constructs a masculine ballet of words, between man and animal. Both men played brilliantly by Joaquin Phoenix (Quell) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Dodd). Phoenix channels much rage and aggression in a difficult role and Hoffman, conversely, channels a lot of charisma and wit (which may come across as easy) in an equally difficult role. Adams also gives one of the best performances of her career in this film; as the enigmatic, Peggy Dodd. With its brilliant editing and cinematography, not to mention the score that was a character of its own, the film proved to be a feast for the mind, eyes and ears. Next to Cloud Atlas, The Master is the most ambitious films of 2012, that’s expected to endure decades of analysis and reinterpretations. It is simply the year’s best. Expand
  13. Sep 23, 2012
    9
    The maddening and precipitous nature that ran rampant across Joaquin Phoenix
  14. Oct 27, 2012
    0
    Pointless. While this movie has nice cinematography and good acting, it is not tied together by a plot. So, I found myself staring at cinematographic diarreah for two hours that felt like four. One of the worst movies I've paid money to watch.
  15. Jan 25, 2013
    10
    Just because it's unconventional doesn't mean it's bad. Audiences need to stop being repulsed at the thought of being challenged by a film. This is one of the best movies I've seen, because it has so many layers. I could go back many times and get more and more meaning out of it.
  16. Jan 17, 2013
    7
    This film is genius. but lacks a story and ultimately looses the audience with it , this film was SELF INDULGENT, and didn't speak to the audience its too far ahead of its time i' m sure in 20 years it will be voted one of the best films.
    The acting was definitely down the Oscar path but the cinematography and the screen play feel like they belonged in a gallery or a art house book. I
    This film is genius. but lacks a story and ultimately looses the audience with it , this film was SELF INDULGENT, and didn't speak to the audience its too far ahead of its time i' m sure in 20 years it will be voted one of the best films.
    The acting was definitely down the Oscar path but the cinematography and the screen play feel like they belonged in a gallery or a art house book. I love this sort of film but I just think the master missed the mark.

    a true 'marmite' film ...love it or hate it
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  17. Sep 17, 2012
    10
    This movie is not fast-paced, unthinking entertainment. Rather, it is an eery, haunting exploration into the minds of two madmen and the general cult insanity of America in its 50s. Through outstanding performances, Anderson takes us through the painful, moment-by-moment mix of reality and delusion, fantasy and belief which is the hallmark of cult life and followers. Often humorous, butThis movie is not fast-paced, unthinking entertainment. Rather, it is an eery, haunting exploration into the minds of two madmen and the general cult insanity of America in its 50s. Through outstanding performances, Anderson takes us through the painful, moment-by-moment mix of reality and delusion, fantasy and belief which is the hallmark of cult life and followers. Often humorous, but always disturbing, this film is unlike no other. The themes have no easy answers, so there is no neat bow and tie here. This is a landmark movie which makes any viewer think twice - about loyalties to any group or individual based on need. Expand
  18. Sep 18, 2012
    2
    For me, this movie was a case of the critics serving the cool-aide and us moronic masses following their leaders (cult)! While I'll admit that the individual performances were good, the collective was an uninteresting mess. I had zero connection to any of the characters and could have cared less what happened to them. Dreadfully long, dreadfully boring. Our entire group simply hated it.
  19. Sep 22, 2012
    0
    I wanted to like this movie because the director has made great movies in the past, but this movie has no redeeming value whatsoever. Two lead characters who are jerks from the very beginning of the movie to the end, what was the point? It seems to me the movie was some kind of joke played by the director on the audience, why do you hate us mr. Anderson? What did we do to you? I wanted toI wanted to like this movie because the director has made great movies in the past, but this movie has no redeeming value whatsoever. Two lead characters who are jerks from the very beginning of the movie to the end, what was the point? It seems to me the movie was some kind of joke played by the director on the audience, why do you hate us mr. Anderson? What did we do to you? I wanted to walk out because of how intensely detestable these characters were but I stayed until the end hoping something redeeming would happen. I want the 2 hours of my life I wasted on this movie and my money back with an apology mr. Anderson. Expand
  20. Sep 22, 2012
    0
    If this show is considered good - then I don't get it! Although, I don't consider myself a prude and can tolerate brief nudity this was BEYOND my tolerance! The whole theme of the movie was disgusting and nauseating! This is really about degenerate men doing degenerate things. I saw no redeeming qualities in the men or the show. Some of the scenery was beautiful - but is spoiled by whatIf this show is considered good - then I don't get it! Although, I don't consider myself a prude and can tolerate brief nudity this was BEYOND my tolerance! The whole theme of the movie was disgusting and nauseating! This is really about degenerate men doing degenerate things. I saw no redeeming qualities in the men or the show. Some of the scenery was beautiful - but is spoiled by what goes on in the movie. I can't think of a movie I have watched that was a disgusting as this one - the only 10 it gets from me is 10 for disgusting. Expand
  21. Mar 3, 2013
    2
    What a rambling movie. I really tried to get engaged but the plot just kept on bouncing around. I did find that acting excellent by Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but they could not overcome the ramble. Cinematography was beautiful; scenes were well shot and crafted. But too slow a pace, too thin an understanding of the characters, too much boredom,
  22. Sep 16, 2012
    3
    I watched this film today, from a 70mm print. It is one of a handful of movies I wish I had never seen. It is slow and ponderous for the first half. The two main characters are unlikeable, which would be OK if they engaged you, which they don't. I might have sympathized with Freddie and his obvious PTSD issue if he hadn't been such a crude violent drunken jerk. The Master never felt real;I watched this film today, from a 70mm print. It is one of a handful of movies I wish I had never seen. It is slow and ponderous for the first half. The two main characters are unlikeable, which would be OK if they engaged you, which they don't. I might have sympathized with Freddie and his obvious PTSD issue if he hadn't been such a crude violent drunken jerk. The Master never felt real; portraying a faker without looking and feeling fake must be harder than I thought. All the way through this film is distinctly 1950's shooting and editing. The professional critics apparently love this; but in the theater audience it felt distinctly weird. We have moved on a long way from Panasonic 65mm cameras. This film is a throwback. If you like retro films and plots that go nowhere, this film was made for you. Expand
  23. Sep 23, 2012
    2
    I went to see this movie because Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman were in it and it had great reviews. I think at the time it had an 88 here on Metacritic. That is pretty much a no lose situation. Well there are always exceptions to the rules.... OK first let me say I found the acting of Joaquin Phoenix, and Philip Seymour Hoffman to be brilliant. That being said this movie wasI went to see this movie because Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman were in it and it had great reviews. I think at the time it had an 88 here on Metacritic. That is pretty much a no lose situation. Well there are always exceptions to the rules.... OK first let me say I found the acting of Joaquin Phoenix, and Philip Seymour Hoffman to be brilliant. That being said this movie was excruciating to watch. My favorite part was the end because that signified the last of my suffering. I never cared about the story itself or the characters involved. I kept waiting for it to go somewhere or get interesting but for the most part it never did. If you want to see brilliant acting and don't care about the story then I highly recommend The Master. If you want an interesting/entertaining story then I would select another movie. Expand
  24. Sep 22, 2012
    5
    There Will Be Hyperbole. The critical acclaim and the great performances are to what end? (I hope this movie does not precipitate any external or internal psychiatric events.)
  25. Dec 29, 2012
    0
    Critics have been desperately prostrating themselves before The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson
  26. Mar 3, 2013
    10
    This film plays more like a fevered dream than like realist history, so people expecting some sort of conventional narrative may quickly lose patience with this movie. They may also be missing something special. In addition to being glowing symbols more than they are conventional characters, neither Freddie Quell (Jochain Phoenix) or Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffmann) is especiallyThis film plays more like a fevered dream than like realist history, so people expecting some sort of conventional narrative may quickly lose patience with this movie. They may also be missing something special. In addition to being glowing symbols more than they are conventional characters, neither Freddie Quell (Jochain Phoenix) or Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffmann) is especially likable. But the performances suggest emotional and historical truth in ways that are often moving, without pretension or sentimentality. Freddie Quell is a figure of the American male id, post World War II: violent, sensuous, insatiable. He's driven to drink drafts of American industry to quench his burning: the fuel of torpedoes, the fluids of photography, institutional cleaners, all mixed with the fruits of the earth. Dodd, "The Master," is a new-model super ego who might tame and direct Quell. Dodd is smug as a baronial magnate, as full of literary pretensions as Tom Sawyer; his resolve is borrowed from his steely wife (Amy Adams). Hoffman's Dodd, contrary to rumors about the film, is not a charismatic, psychological autocrat, but is wounded, defensive, and dreamy. He lives out a fantasy of priestly insight and command, but few people really believe him; he gets the benefit of many doubts. As Quell is drawn to Dodd's fantasies of mind over history, Dodd is drawn to Quell's energy and chemical inventiveness. Together they suggest different means of achieving atomic-age versions of the old American goal of obliterating the past and standing alone in a new present. They also suggest the polar tensions of raw animal desire and magisterial fantasies of triumph present in many American men. Quell's desire to consume, dominate and love the earth (Quell is obsessed with a woman sculpted in sand) meets a rhetoric of platonic self-mastery in Dodd. The preposterous incongruity of the men and their desires does not result in a drama of control and exploitation, which audiences may expect, but in inchoate attempts at mutual understanding in several scenes that are more humanly intimate and dramatically resonant than most sexual episodes in movies. The 70mm "real film" photography in this movie is amazing; many of the film's strongest moments, including those with people, are wordless. An irony of the film is that lush and magnificent nature (the Pacific ocean, the Arizona desert, the San Francisco Bay) is often overlooked by Quell and Dodd in their self involutions. Nature in American writing often becomes a symbol of self; it automatically is for these two. But nature may have the last word, in an ending that is unexpectedly funny and tender. I rate this as one of the best American movies. Expand
  27. Sep 30, 2012
    0
    First, my PTA credentials: I have consistently named Magnolia as my favorite movie of all time ever since it was released. It still is.

    Second, only two words needed for The Master: Extremely. Boring.

    I am so disappointed. PTA, please go back to the kind of story telling you are The Master of.
  28. Mar 3, 2013
    0
    I have never seen a movie that got on my nerves more than the Master. Boring is actually the least of the problems. From the pace, to the incoherent story, to the horrible ending, the movie is utter garbage. The movie goes nowhere and by the 20 minutes into the film you want it to end, problem is you have another 2 hours of hell to sit through.
  29. Feb 28, 2013
    3
    ok phoenix is pretty awesome as an actor but the plot is grotesquely pointless and you will be cheated out of nearly 3 hours of your life if you watch this literally plotless movie.
Metascore
86

Universal acclaim - based on 43 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 37 out of 43
  2. Negative: 1 out of 43
  1. Reviewed by: Emma Dibdin
    Nov 4, 2012
    100
    With potent performers and poetic visuals, Anderson has made the boldest American picture of the year. Its strangeness can be hard to process, but this is a shattering study of the impossibility of recovering the past.
  2. Reviewed by: Damon Wise
    Oct 29, 2012
    100
    An often brilliant '50s-throwback character drama that never feels nostalgic, with terrific central performances and a luminous, unforgettable visual beauty.
  3. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Sep 21, 2012
    80
    The Master is above all a love story between Joaquin Phoenix's damaged WWII vet, Freddie Quell, and Philip Seymour Hoffmann's charismatic charlatan, Lancaster Dodd. And that relationship is powerful and funny and twisted and strange enough that maybe that's all the movie needs to be about.