Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Master [2012]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O)  Roger Ebert (2 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

The Master (written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson) I found to be a rather sad/depressing film.  Rumored to be vaguely based on the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, I left the theater after watching the movie thinking of the film's Hubbard-like character Lancaster Dodd (played superbly by Phillip Seymour Hoffman) as being "kinda charismatic."  But I left feeling rather depressed about the times in which he was living (in the United States / U.K. in the first decade following WW II).

It has become all-but a cliche' to portray the late 1940s-early 1950s in the U.S. as being a _very repressed and rigid time_.  One thinks of films like The Majestic [2001], The Hours [2002], Revolutionary Road [2008].  In such a time, I could imagine that someone like L.Ron Hubbard / Lancaster Dodd, on the one hand "coming from the elite" on the other living at its edge, coming around talking about past lives and alien races could capture an audience of otherwise stiff and troubled people -- stiff like Lancaster's wife Peggy (played masterfully by Amy Adams) and troubled like vet/alcoholic Freddy Quell (played by Joaquin Phoenix) who could have walked out of a John Steinbeck novel after having served as an extra in From Here to Eternity [1953].  In such a milieu Hubbard/Dodd would come across as a folksy/semi-intellectual "breath of fresh air," and yes would probably attract some rich patrons like "Mildred Drummond" (played by Patty McCormack) even if "he was just making it up as he went along..." as Dodd's son Val (played by Jesse Plemons) was more or less able to discern.

Yet, even if Dodd was a charlatan he did appear to give people hope/purpose in a time still traumatized by war and really only awakening to its potential.  We live in a very different time than the late 1940s-50s and honestly probably a better / happier one.

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