The Master

Rated 2.0

A World War II Navy vet who can’t adjust to peacetime (Joaquin Phoenix) falls under the spell of a charismatic charlatan (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a mix of self-help guru, snake-oil salesman and religious mystic. Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson has a reputation for artistry despite (or because of) his modest output of six features in 24 years. His admirers will no doubt find this one profoundly poetic, but at 137 solemnly lumbering minutes, it’s actually a windy bore, an attractively wrapped but thick and indigestible slab of baloney. Phoenix plays an ex-sailor with anger management issues by giving—I am not making this up—an impression of Popeye: That’s the level of profundity on display. There’s a charlatan at work here, all right, but it’s not Hoffman’s character, it’s Paul Thomas Anderson.