The Master (2012)



Critic Consensus: Smart and solidly engrossing, The Master extends Paul Thomas Anderson's winning streak of challenging films for serious audiences.

Movie Info

A striking portrait of drifters and seekers in post World War II America, Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master unfolds the journey of a Naval veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) who arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future - until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman). -- (C) Weinstein

Rating: R (for sexual content, graphic nudity and language)
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Paul Thomas Anderson
In Theaters:
On DVD: Feb 26, 2013
Box Office: $16.2M
The Weinstein Company - Official Site


as Freddie Quell

as Peggy Dodd

as Helen Sullivan

as Val Dodd

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as Rorschach Doctor

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as Portrait Customer

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as Martha the Salesgirl

as Fighting Businessman

as Filipino Worker

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as Young Filipino Woman

as Angry Filipino Woman

as Young Woman

as Elizabeth Dodd

as Norman Conrad

as Wayne Gregory

as Susan Gregory

as Cliff Boyd

as Mrs. Solstad

as Doris Solstad

as Hiring Hall Voice

as Bill William

as Mildred Drummond

as Chi Chi Crawford

as Bartender

as Margaret O'Brien

as Michelle Mortimer

as Beatrice Campbell

as New York Party Girl

as New York Lawyer

as James Sullivan

as Dancer

as Dancer

as Processing Patient

as Judge Phoenix

as Band Member - Piano

as Band Member - Drum

as Band Member - Voice

as British Receptionist

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as Pub Customer

as Winn Manchester
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News & Interviews for The Master

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Critic Reviews for The Master

All Critics (225) | Top Critics (51)

It's a mess; it's pretentious; it is thundery with dismay.

Full Review… | June 14, 2013
The New Republic
Top Critic

In the end it may not have the emotional uplift the Academy or a popular mainstream audience craves, but make no mistake, this is an enthralling drama about a peculiarly American restlessness, and the striving for insight and grace.

Full Review… | January 8, 2013
Top Critic

[A] challenging, psychologically fraught drama.

Full Review… | January 8, 2013
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

It's a singular vision, and the movie haunts.

Full Review… | May 12, 2015
The Improper Bostonian

There is so much spark here, so much to absorb, that the effect defies any picking of nits and just makes one grateful.

Full Review… | June 23, 2013

A perverted sausage party in which Anderson fully indulges his obsession with male genitalia.

Full Review… | May 26, 2013
The Patriot Ledger

Audience Reviews for The Master

Freddie specializes in creating cocktails from anything he can get his hands on, be it torpedo propellent, photography chemicals, fertilizers, or paint thinner. His dad killed himself with alcoholism, he long lost his mom to a mental institution, and now he's just come home from the experience of killing other men in WWII. He copes with these traumas by staying inebriated, and yet the pain still drives him to violence. Yet Master Dodd, who tells readers in his cult book that man is not an animal and must do away with emotional impulses (and farting), sees more inspiration in Freddie than weakness. While being told to repent of animal instincts, Freddie is busy writing a note to the pretty woman sitting across from him: "Do you want to ****? :-)." Dodd is envious of Freddie's free and honest nature, beholden to no one, and most importantly, wholly unashamed of his animalistic self. Freddie, who apparently has missed out on experiencing an affectionate, intimate friendship, becomes Dodd's personal bartender and loyal protector against the world who challenges Dodd's ideas. It becomes apparent that the Master, the wise seer of truth, is himself a slave to two other dueling masters - booze loosens his strings, and his latest wife pulls them taught. Mrs. Dodd sees their fearless family friend as a threat to her dreams of success, and the Master has to find a reason to keep his song bird around. This reason, perhaps genuine or perhaps selfish, does do Freddie a service. What happens next teaches Freddie self control and the ability to soberly deal with his life's pain head on, eye to eye, without so much as flinching. What does a sober, functioning, and centered Freddie look like? What does he do with himself? What does he want? That's for you and the Master to find out.

Matthew Slaven
Matthew Slaven

Super Reviewer

Phoenix and Hoffman are absolutely brilliant in this long yet rewarding film that handles its subject matter with the right balance of artfulness, intelligence, and intensity. Hoffman proves once again that he is the greatest actor of his generation.

Matthew Samuel Mirliani
Matthew Samuel Mirliani

Super Reviewer

With complete bias, Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the best directors of all time, and he tackles strong and completely entrancing subjects that always seem to make the viewer watch the decline of a young and promise filled man. The main, and most volatile character of the film, is Freddie Quell (Phoenix), a veteran in post-World War II America, trying to understand the shambles of his life while also fighting against it without much luck. The "fever dream" setting, intermingling with the bright cinematography, and principle photography, and the time period, made the film look and feel vivid. The first shot of the ocean as the battleship cruised along, looked like true beauty, as does most of the film. While "There Will Be Blood" also looked impressive, it was distinguished by a gritty texture and robust characters. "The Master" is much more subdued, and therefore has a more plaintive and beatific look. Freddie is much more salt of the earth than the man who saves him, but you never know whether or not to root for him, because we never know whether his actions are just, whether he's an angry soul who cannot be saved, or the beliefs of "The Cause" are real and will help him. The counterpart to Freddie's character is Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman) who leads "The Cause" and owns the boat that Freddie stows away on, one drunken night. Their relationship is what really fuels the film, because though Phoenix gives an almost intractable performance, Hoffman is just as ravenous and power hungry. What makes the film watchable, as well as strong, is the interplay between the two, who seem to have a somewhat honest relationship; until the true nature of who Lancaster is surfaces for the audience. It's not surprising to find that these humble people who take in a drifter without judgment turn out to be cult leaders, but the way it's built up truly makes for an interesting watch. "The Cause's" structure and belief systems work themselves into the plot nicely, and lend to some grandstanding speeches from Lancaster, and scenes that defy time. What doesn't seem to come so easily for the film is what it's trying to say. At times it feels invigorating to watch the playful way Lancaster feeds his revelations to an awaiting audience, but when it's all said and done nothing comes from this film. Is it a commentary on Scientology and cult religions in general, a character study of Freddie, or of his relationship with Dodd? It's still an interesting and beautiful film, it's just hard to love without a fast paced plot and likable characters. This is an actor's film, which is why all the award nominations went to the cast, so it has nothing to do with substance, just strength. It's not a film I would recommend unless you're a cinephile who's in love with Paul Thomas Anderson.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

The Master Quotes

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