Jacob Mikanowski reviews Paul Thomas Anderson’s film ‘The Master’:
The answer has something to do with Freddie’s deep unease, the way he seems at odds and out-of-joint with his surroundings and the times. With his painfully hunched shoulders and a battered, deeply-lined face, he looks like an evolutionary throwback, an australopithecine John Garfield dropped off on the savannahs of a new continent. As played by Joaquin Phoenix, Freddie has the demeanor of a wounded animal. Tight spaces make him uncomfortable. Time and again, Anderson frames him in enclosures — a chicken wire shack, a ship’s hold — that make him visibly unhinged. Behind bars in actual prison, Freddie is a complete maniac. When he speaks he keeps his lips pressed together, talking out of the corner of his mouth like a stroke victim. And the damage extends to what he says: he’s barely able to articulate a thought or access a memory. Though a creature of appetite, with a constant need for sex and drink, he doesn’t have much success with women. He’s a wizard with booze, however — a moonshine alchemist who can synthesize rotgut out of whatever happens to be at hand, whether it’s paint thinner or Lysol.