is film about two men who are two halves that complete one another. One man is Freddie Quell, a WWII vet who moonshines and lives off nomadic loneliness. The other is Lancaster Dodd, the leader of a new religion called The Cause. His philosophy is messy and is soft-spoken during his first meeting with Freddie.
Joaquin Phoenix is Freddie, and his performance is as glorious as it is messy. The mess is intentional, he is able to show off his range of anger, hatred, and sometimes happiness. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is the better of the two performers as Lancaster Dodd, the man who founds The Cause. He is defensive of his ideas, and Freddie.
In one scene at a Cause conference, Dodd says the key to happiness is laughter. Laughter and enlightenment is something the alcoholic and messy Freddie give him. It's a wonderful scene. In (unintentional) return, Freddie gets Dodd's caring and friendship. Freddie is like a son to Dodd becuase he wholeheartedly believes in The Cause, unlike Dodd's true son Val.
The definition of a supporting performance is to support the lead actors. Amy Adams is Dodd's wife Peggy, and she definitely fits the bill as a supporter. She is the brain of the Cause, and the backbone of the ever-changing mind of Dodd.
The film's screenplay is like Freddie himself. It is messy and bold, but that is almost a good thing. It is the little things in the film that truly stuck with me. There is one line where Dodd calls the Cause congregation together, and says for lunch "I'll sit next to Freddie.". It shows how far Dodd went to be friends with the shady Freddie, how he is choosing him over more dedicated members of the Cause. The script like, Freddie, is a thing of beauty once you go inside its animalistic phenotype. Wonderful.
Also some things to praise is the cinematography, editing, and production design. If the cast just wasn't so famous I coulda been convinced this is drama pulled right out of the 60's. PT Anderson's 5 year gap between There Will Be Blood was a long wait, but well worth it.
The Master is a dense, multi-layered masterwork.