As the director of movies such as “There Will Be Blood” and “Boogie Nights,” Anderson brings out the best in both leading actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in this visually stunning film.
The opening scene of this thought provoking movie depicts churning water which is later shown as the wake of two different ships. Organic, vibrant colors unknowingly put you in a trance as the film illustrates various areas of California including post-World War II San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Freddie Quell, portrayed by actor Joaquin Phoenix, is a troubled and mentally disturbed war veteran returning from the war in the Pacific and is wandering from job to job. Foreshadowed alcoholism and sexual frustration paint the picture of a drifter rendered emotionally unstable from his time at sea.
Upon intentionally losing his job as a portrait photographer, he tries working on a farm. His stay there is short lived when he is accused of poisoning a coworker.
Quell concocts moonshine from various household and mechanical chemicals which he consumes in an unsettling fashion. Upon losing his job on the farm, he drunkenly stumbles upon a docked yacht which is commanded by Lancaster Dodd, portrayed by actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Dodd, a charismatic, well spoken leader of a blossoming cult called the Cause, takes Quell in and offers him a free self evaluation.
From then on Quell and Dodd build an unlikely relationship founded on Dodd’s growing interest in Quells “potion.” The elegant yet ominous soundtrack, composed by Radiohead’s lead guitarist, Jonny Greenwood, along with the artfully crafted cinematography (filmed in 70mm) paints an audio/visual masterpiece.
As Quell begins to understand the ways of the Cause and their practices he becomes blindly obedient to its demands amid occasional talk of fraud.
Hoffman and Phoenix put on a brilliant performance; each character shining in their own light. Their odd, unstable, codependent relationship has its highs and lows, with both as equally gripping and unpredictable.
This dark film is easy to appreciate on many different aspects, guaranteed to have you leaving the theater in incessant thought.