Movie review: “The Master”

Partner and I saw “The Master,” with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, on Saturday.


It was very – interesting.

Don’t get me wrong. I liked it very much, and I think I will remember it for a long time. Both Hoffman and Phoenix were very good in it.

But this is not a movie for everyone. It’s a character study, and not really plot-driven.

In brief: Phoenix plays Freddy Quill, a (probably) mentally-ill World War II veteran. He’s sex-obsessed (I’ve never seen anyone literally pound sand before), and an alcoholic (with admixtures of paint thinner and gasoline and the chemicals you use to develop photographs), and deeply disturbed.

In 1950, Freddy meets Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), a self-assured cult leader who’s written a book called “The Cause.” Dodd’s cult is a mix of reincarnation, Scientology, mysticism, and something that resembles Buddhism.

They fall in love immediately.

But it is not the love of human being for human being, or gay love, or anything else.

It is the love of a man for a German shepherd.

Freddy Quill is an animal. He is violent and uncontrollable. He loves his master. He disobeys him, and repents, and whines and cries and begs. He rolls with him in the grass.

Lancaster Dodd loves Freddy, though his wife (Amy Adams) and children disapprove. He tries to discipline Freddy, through training, and love, and everything he can muster. He sings to him. He calls him a “scoundrel.” He calls him an “animal.” He uses him as a test subject. He treats him abominably.

Freddy goes feral a couple of times: he wanders away, and tries to find a life for himself elsewhere.

But he always comes home to his master.

The movie is dull and slow in spots. But the performances by Hoffman and Phoenix – and by Amy Adams – are just about perfect.

See it if you can.

About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

2 Responses to Movie review: “The Master”

  1. starproms says:

    I don’t think I could enjoy that one Loren. Thanks for the review. I always enjoy hearing what other people think of the films they watch.

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