By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Two Beers) –
Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is having trouble fitting into society following the traumas of WWII. He leaves the service with a whole mess of mental conditions, making him basically unemployable. After being fired from his most recent job, he finds himself stowing away on board a cruise ship being chartered by Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a charismatic man and published author. Dodd’s book “The Cause” outlines a method by which people can improve their mental health, through a series of strict sessions called “processing”. Freddie finds himself swept up into The Cause, as Dodd and his followers offer him a promise of a better life.
The names were changed to protect the not-so innocent…
This movie is proof Paul Thomas Anderson can make a good-looking movie in his sleep, even without cinematographer Robert Elswit, who had worked with him on every prior film. As a director, he just has a knack for beautiful, poetic shots. The images alone automatically set this film apart from 99% of cinema.
I’m starting to think that Paul Thomas Anderson just gave Joaquin Phoenix a shave and basic outline of what to do and then followed him with a camera for a few weeks, editing the results. This is the performance of a crazy person who knows crazy in all it’s poo-flinging forms.
He’s the most talented homeless person I know…
Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Dodd is a calm and collected man, as long as people are paying attention to him. The moment any of his “methods” are called into question, he becomes loud, vulgar and unpredictable. This thin-veneer of friendliness seems at any time to explode, and it leads the audience to wonder how effective the methods are for someone so unwilling to defend his own beliefs rationally.
Beer Two ****Warning, Spoilers****
I have to take issue with the ending… there is none. This managed to work in PT Anderson’s last movie There will be Blood, as the ambiguous non-ending at least gave you some ideas on where to go from there. Leaving a film’s ending ambiguous is tricky, and doesn’t always work well. This movie is endlessly fascinating, and will undoubtedly be debated for years, but I was left wondering if Anderson even had a point to begin with…
Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman make an Oscar-Caliber team. But where’s the closure?
Take a Drink: whenever someone mentions “The Cause” or “Processing”.
Take a Drink: when Phillip Seymour Hoffman repeats a question / command.
Drink a Shot: when Joaquin Phoenix takes a swig of homemade booze.