Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is a hypnotic study of control and manipulation and possibly a love story, but one that evokes the emptiness and quackery at the dark heart of America. The film is built around a simple premise: an emotionally damaged, itinerant, alcoholic sailor named Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) crashes a party aboard a yacht hosting the wedding of the daughter of Lancaster Dodd, the leader of burgeoning cult named The Cause. Dodd takes a shine to Freddie, perhaps challenged by his possibilities as a “noble savage” to be tamed, but a closer viewing reveals a deeper connection for Dodd. “I’ve seen you before,” he says. “I know you.” He sets out to tame Freddie’s base nature and to train and condition him by way of the methods of The Cause.
Much has been made of the fact that Anderson is riffing on America’s vulnerability to cults. In our short history, we’ve certainly had our share of weird religions and wacky causes. In 1823 Joseph Smith was visited by the angel Moroni: Read more ...