The Master, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in a period piece very loosely based on the origins of Scientology, is a sumptuous viewing experience. Yet, it's not likely to live up to the immense hopes that film buffs have invested in it. The movie confirms that writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson is a wonderful artist who doesn’t have stories to tell.
So don’t go expecting plot tension in what is, more or less, a buddy comedy. (I found it frequently hilarious, although that’s a minority view.) Anderson’s framework allows Hoffman and Phoenix to deliver some of the most stupendous two-man scenes of acting-for-the-sake-of-acting since Sleuth or Midnight Cowboy.