Though the film doesn't release in theaters until next Friday, The Master is already gathering positive buzz for everyone involved - including director Paul Thomas Anderson and star Philip Seymour Hoffman. But most will agree the real performance to watch is going to be that of Joaquin Phoenix, who had been out of the acting game for nearly four years.
Phoenix is garnering as much awards show buzz as his fellow cast members for his turn as Freddie Quell – a WWII veteran who finds love and solace in a new religion called 'The Cause.' However, the film will also give audiences a chance to see if the talented actor still has it - after his time making the (alleged) mockumentary I'm Still Here had even his biggest fans questioning the actor's perception of reality.
To that point, the actor has revealed his first impressions of The Master after viewing a rough cut of the film. Rather than label it a masterpiece or P.T. Anderson's next greatest film, though, Phoenix tells Time Magazine he "laughed the entire time watching it."
A strange description considering Anderson is mostly known for dramas (albeit with spats of humor thrown in), but apparently Phoenix likes to revel in the uncomfortable, and finds it "hilarious."
"I’ve seen a rough version, with no score. I thought it was a comedy. I did! I laughed the entire time I was watching it. I was sitting with Paul and I said to him, 'This is hilarious.'"
Considering Phoenix's approach to I'm Still Here - a "film" that required he commit whole cloth to a rap career and uncomfortable celebrity interactions - it's not entirely surprising to hear he has an affinity for awkward humor. Phoenix says that his tendency to laugh during uncomfortable moments comes from his personal life.
"I have this horrible sense of humor where I think discomfort is funny—partly because I experience discomfort a lot, and it’s a way of laughing at it and getting a release. "
Based on extensive viewings of trailers and clips for The Master it's hard to find evidence of that comedy through-line in Anderson's actual film, but watching a rough cut without Jonny Greenwood's score, or any score for that matter, would have definitely been odd. Regardless of Phoenix's comments, audiences certainly aren't gearing up for a rip-roaring good time - but they'll be seeing a finished film.
Phoenix is definitely not the first actor to display a few bizarre personality quirks, nor is he the first to say something in an interview that has moviegoers scratching their heads. However, if his performance in The Master is garnering rave reviews, then we're glad the actor enjoyed the film as well... in his own way.
The Master will be out in theaters on September 21, 2012.
Source: Time Magazine