Adding some chill-inducing momentum to the fall Oscar race is The Master. Several critics are salivating over it but we'll tell you if it's worth the hype in this review round-up. In this wild psychological exploration, Lancaster Dodd.... a charasmatic cult leader played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman creates his own religion and enlists a drifter named Freddie Quell to spread this religion...but eventually Joaquin Phoenix's character Freddie ends up questioning their organization and the man who created it. So where's the controversy? Well writer, director and co-producer Paul Thomas Anderson has confirmed the film is based on the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
Metacritic gave it an 89 out of one hundred metascore, with Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum called it one of the great movies of the year...an ambitious, challenging, and creatively hot-blooded but cool toned project that picks seriously at knotty ideas about American personality, success, rootlessness, master-disciple dynamics, and father-son mutually assured destruction. Rotten Tomatoes echoes the praise a little less loudly with an 86 percent fresh rating dubbing it Smart, powerfully acted, beautifully filmed, and solidly engrossing and saying it joins Paul Thomas Anderson's winning streak of challenging films for serious audiences. Most critics agree on the astounding performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, including Rolling Stone's Peter Travers who calls Hoffman's work in The Master mesmerizing, monumental and the best collaboration between Anderson and Hoffman to date. And Variety's Frank Scully thinks The Master could be Joaquin Phoenix's ticket for a long-overdue golden Oscar.
On the other side of the equation, USA Today's Claudia Puig isn't subscribing to this movie's cult following saying the story can leave viewers at sea, floundering to give meaning to what they are watching. Claudia went on to say it's too ambiguous to fully satisty and leaves questions about who Hoffman's character truly is. Time's Richard Corliss adds to that saying the master is not a masterpiece, he calls it glorious to watch, but says it brings no coherence or insight to its two main characters.
Perhaps even more haunting than the film's uneasy content is the score, written by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. MTV's James Montgomery calls Greenwood's work positively marvelous and says it's "the one aspect of "The Master" that has stuck with me since my initial viewing".
So if these reviews have you under The Master's spell, check it out and leave us your thoughts in the comments below once you do. I'm Simone Boyce in Hollywood, and I'll see you next time.