“Exercise in a Waste of Time”

“Hotshots” looks at a movie!


The Master has received good reviews and bad reviews, and this is definitely one of them.

It was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, known for directing the 1997 Boogie Nights and the 2007 There Will Be Blood, both of which I thought were very good and enjoyable to watch.

On the other hand, between those two excellent films, Anderson directed the 1999 Magnolia and the 2002 Punch-Drunk Love, which I didn’t enjoy.

So, perhaps the story on Anderson is that he makes either good or bad films, which, if true, means that I am looking forward to his next film.

In this film, Anderson was supposedly inspired by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, but, if so, the story has been fictionalized, and there are no references to either the man or the religion.

The story takes place mostly in 1950, but there are flashbacks to World War II and some background on one of the characters, Freddie Quell, played by Joaquin Phoenix, and Quell’s service in the U.S. Navy and the South Pacific.

Freddie has emotional disturbances from his wartime experiences, and when he gets out of the Navy, he has trouble keeping a job because of his obsession with sex and his alcoholism, which he feeds by making his own hootch from whatever ingredients he finds at hand.

Then Freddie meets Lancaster Dodd, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who claims to be a doctor, writer, and theoretical philosopher.

Dodd, who is called The Master by his followers, tells Freddie, “I do many, many things.”

Freddie inspires Dodd, who claims that his teachings can allow people to access their past lives, and that his process exercises can even cure such diseases as leukemia.

Dodd’s wife, Peggy, played by Amy Adams, seems to have just as much influence in The Cause, as it is called, and Laura Dern even shows up as one of The Master’s converts.

The story moves from on board a boat to New York City, to Philadelphia, to Phoenix, Arizona, and finally to England, but it could have been edited better.

Both Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and even Amy Adams deserve much better.

The Master is quirky, thought provoking, interesting, but also boring, much too long, doesn’t pay off, and in the end is a colossal waste of everyone’s time.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”