One of the first things my wife said to me on the way out of this was “Nothing Happens: The Movie.” I agreed, so that should give you a good indication of what we thought of this supposed Oscar contender.
For some background, there hasn’t been a single Paul Thomas Anderson movie that I’ve liked. Didn’t like Boogie Nights, hated Magnolia, and hated There Will Be Blood. So obviously the guy’s style just doesn’t agree with me. Even so, I think this is my least favorite of his movies.
The “plot” is meandering and seemingly without beginning or end. I like it when a movies gives you enough that you have to fill in some gaps on your own. It never explicitly shows you that Joaquin Phoenix plays a Navy vet after WWII. It does show some scenes of him in a cramped ship, on a beach, in a uniform, and lets you figure it out. So my problem is not that the plot doesn’t tell you everything. My problem is that the story it tells is boring and without any real change. At the end of the movie, I’m pretty sure all the characters are in just about the same situation as when it began. I didn’t sense that anybody learned anything, or took anything away from what happened to them. Appropriately, nor did I take anything useful away from the movie.
This, like most P.T. Anderson movies, is being touted as an Oscar contender. I have no idea why. The acting is good, I suppose. If watching actors do a good job at portraying unlikable, fuzzily defined characters is Oscar-worthy, so be it. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is good as the titular Master, I guess. Considering he’s always good though, this is not surprising, and certainly not worth recognizing. Just wait a year, and he’ll be good again–except in an undoubtedly more interesting movie. Amy Adams is in this movie…for some reason. She plays Hoffman’s wife, but has virtually no impact on the movie. She’s better in Trouble With the Curve, which also came out last weekend.
The music was occasionally interesting, which I noticed because the movie was so dull that I was searching for anything in the movie to occupy my brain, and the music poked through once in a while. Really though, I’m not going to try to provide the good aspects of the movie. I didn’t see any. I hated There Will be Blood too, but at least that had a burning oil derrick to look at, beautiful Old West scenery, and memorable moments like “I drink your milkshake.” The Master has either 1 or 0 memorable moments, depending on what you think of a weird party where all the women are naked and men are clothed.
If you have a finite movie-going budget, I can’t recommend strongly enough that you skip this one. It’s probably my second-least favorite movie of the year so far.