Produced and distributed by The Weinstein
Company, together with Annapurna Pictures
Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
The Master is another travesty by the supposed wunderkind Paul Thomas Anderson. In 2005 he gave us his rendition of Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil in There Will Be Blood. Unfortunately, he left out all that made the book a telling examination of early-20th-century capitalism. With The Master, he’s reviewed the origins of Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, leaving out all that is interesting about either. Yes, Hubbard appears in the film as the marvelously named Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who effortlessly casts a spell over his well-heeled followers, but we never learn where he came from or how he came to develop his lunatic self-help movement, which he eventually transformed into a tax-sheltered religion. Instead of investigating Hubbard-Dodd, Anderson has chosen to view him through the uncomprehending eyes of Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a psychotic World War II veteran who has somehow been mentally damaged during his tour of duty in the Navy. All we know about Freddie is that he prefers to make his own poisonous intoxicants with whatever is at hand: torpedo fuel, photographic developing chemicals,...