Ever gone out on a date and, while everything is pleasant and fine, you just don’t end up clicking? There’s no drama, no sparks. It’s not your fault. It’s not your dates fault. There’s just something missing that will prevent you from going any further with this person.
That’s me and Paul Thomas Anderson.
Sometimes, for reasons unknown, you just fucking hate a certain director. It’s not to say they make shitty films. There’s just something you end up hating because, frankly, their style doesn’t jibe with yours. Terry Gilliam, for example, annoys the shit out of me. Paul Thomas Anderson is, however, my prime example of directors I hate for virtually no reason.
I say that right off the bat so you understand there’s an inherent bias to this review. I guess every review has an inherent bias but this time it’s really true. I hate almost everything Paul Thomas Anderson has directed. Boogie Nights is about the only one you can force me to watch. Like, have you seen There Will Be Blood? It’s a bloated pretentious mess that made me want to rip my eyeballs out.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that I didn’t want to rip my eyes out during The Master. Yet, it’s filled with the typical Anderson touches: the booming obnoxious score that’s more random tones than actual melody, the stark framing devices that make each shot haunting, and the weird dialogue patterns that almost makes every character seem like their speaking another language.
It’s all there. But Anderson doesn’t dive too deep into Pretentious Springs. Outside of Boogie Nights, or possibly Punch Drunk Love, this is Anderson’s most accessible work. He even does a better job establishing his characters, which has always been sort of beside the point in his previous films.
The Master is all about Young Johnny Cash meeting up with a cult leader Truman Capote. The two men then begin a strange and warped relationship that ends up defining both men. That’s about it. Not much else happens. There’s some shit about religion and a lot of fucking, which is always welcome. But mostly it’s just a strange chess match of a movie that highlights both men’s acting abilities.
Because, fuck, do they act their asses off. This movie made me sad Young Johnny Cash had his fake mental breakdown, imagine the films he would have made.
The acting in the film made me forget a lot of what Paul Thomas Anderson was doing on screen. It was almost like a bait and switch. I walked in ready to punch some Paul Thomas Anderson face. I walked out happy I didn’t.
I see that as progress for my contentious relationship with him.