While we can always rely on Netflix’s influx of brand new and original material, one of the great things about the streaming platform is that it is also home to some of the finest movies ever made. Every so often, we like to take a step back from newness and focus, instead, on some of Hollywood’s past glories via Netflix Flashback. Today, we’re taking a look back at one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s best films, the brilliant The Master.
One of cinema’s undoubted auteurs, Anderson has become a byword for quality in the 21st Century. Having found fame alongside the rise of the so-called ‘Indiewood’, Anderson rocketed into the collective consciousness with Boogie Nights, a masterful look at the porn industry. Following that success, Anderson has gone on to work with some of the greatest artists in film, including Daniel Day-Lewis and, in this film, the wonderful Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Hoffman and Anderson had a wonderful partnership, first connecting with one another on Anderson’s debut film, before working together on countless projects. But perhaps their finest meeting of minds was during The Master. Set in a post-WW II America, the film is a challenging, psychologically complex drama, Anderson’s 2012 film follows the story of an alcoholic sailor (played by Joaquin Phoenix) who returns home from the war and finds comfort in the cult of a faith leader (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Hoffman plays the egregious yet charming religious cult leader Lancaster Dodd, based on Scientology’s founder L. Ron Hubbard, in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2012 film. Hoffman is perfectly cast in the role due to his ability to play characters with unclear motives, blending charismatic energy with mystery and darkness.
Hoffman’s powerfully strong performance led to another nomination from the Academy for Best Actor, as well as many critics called it Hoffman’s best performance of his career. His ability to capture the surreal, dramatic, comedic, and conniving all in one character is admirable, and his relationship with Phoenix’s character Freddie Quell is mesmerising.
Phoenix revealed, “When we were first started, I talked to Paul about Freddie’s motivations for doing certain things, and Paul never had an answer for the character. So, it was really frustrating in the beginning of the movie.” Yet Phoenix would overcome the issues with his usual deft touch. “There was nothing solid or consistent about Freddie. But I’m also a slow learner-real slow. So, it takes me maybe halfway through the movie before I suddenly figure out one of the major plot points of the entire film.”
The film is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a masterful expression of the three main artistic components: Paul Thomas Anderson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, who each give themselves to the project to create a film for the ages.
Watch The Master on Netflix right now.