What can I say? Before I even saw this movie I knew I was in for a real treat! Paul Thomas Anderson? Check. Joaquin Phoenix? Check. Philip Seymour-Hoffman? Check. Jonny Greenwood? Check. My eyes were nearly bulging out of their sockets when I first heard of who was involved with this movie? How could I not love it? Well, my unreasonably high expectations have not been met before. Sorry Ides of March. That being said it lived up to almost everything I thought it could be!
From the beginning, we see Freddie Quell (Phoenix) living aboard a ship during World War II and you can already tell something is not quite right about him. He is always sleeping or mixing up some sort of liquid he can drink. He eventually becomes a drifter going from one job to the next struggling with alcoholism. But one night he stumbles onto a boat. The boat is being used by a man named Lancaster Dodd (Seymour-Hoffman) who is borrowing it to go on vacation with his family and friends. Dodd is the founder of a religious movement called The Cause. He takes Freddie under his wing and teaches him about The Cause. The rest of the movie is about the rise of the movement and Freddie’s relationship with Lancaster.
I thought it was one of the best acted movies I have seen in a long time. Both Phoenix and Seymour-Hoffman hit their roles out of the park and I would not be surprised if they were both nominated for Oscars. My only complaint with this movie was there wasn’t much development of anyone else’s characters. Sure we know Dodd’s wife (Amy Adams) was stern, but we never really spent much time with her character. The only meaningful scene I can recall with one of Dodd’s children was when Val Dodd (Jesse Plemons) told Freddie that his father was making it up as he went along.
This was definitely a character driven movie that didn’t have full resolution in the end. Personally, I enjoy ambiguous endings. But I believe the purpose of the movie was to tell the story of Freddie and Lancaster’s relationship and in the end it accomplished just that. So in a way there was some resolution with their relationship.
Oscar season has only just begun, but this movie is my clear front runner. I just wish I could hang out on the beach with Freddie Quell and his sand woman.