Oh yeah, it was pretty great. Can't really say too much, the less you know going in the better. Lots of themes hit upon in this movie, and it definitely has that dark edge to it that There Will Be Blood had, but still had a little bit of the comedy P.T. would use in some of his earlier movies. Just after one viewing tonight, I'd say it's not as good as Boogie Nights or There Will Be Blood, but it's about on the level of Magnolia, and I'd say better than Punch Drunk Love and Hard Eight. Though, I think all of those movies are at least very good. In essence, superb film, check it out.
The Master, as I said above, isn't near PT Anderson's best, but it is still great. It's almost carried by the performances, here... I could nitpick the movie, but it's so extremely well done that it really doesn't matter. After talking to some other people who saw it, I agree with some that it seems like certain themes were thrown into the story just to keep it a little more interesting, as the movie... doesn't really actually do that much. It's a really quite minimalist movie, more so than There Will Be Blood (and I don't know if minimalist is the right word... maybe, understated?), and from an artistic point of view, it's really hard to find anything getting a wide theatrical release that can even compete with it.
and the second time I simply said that I liked it even better. It seems to be pretty polarizing, and I think a lot of people are looking for specific meaning in something that I honestly don't think has a simple, single meaning.
I do think there are details that perhaps clue you in on what PTA is getting at. It's not necessarily about meaning, but about character motivation. And I do think this is the single most misinterpreted movie of the year. At it's center, I think it's a movie about sexuality disguised as a movie about religion. I think people should draw their own conclusions about that, but here are a few details I think are pretty key to understanding what PTA is doing here:
1) Freddie was molested by his aunt when he was a kid after losing both his parents. You want to understand the genesis of his complicated sexuality, it's pretty important to start there.
2) When Freddie and Lancaster try to have a private conversation about Freddie beating up the vocal dissenter at the fundraiser, Peggy on more than one occasion make sure the door is open. If you've ever grown up in a church, that type of behavior is generally done to keep people from thinking of or talking about the possibility of sexual misconduct by a clergyman with the person they're talking to. But Freddie is a male implying that perhaps there has been talk of homosexual affairs between Lancaster and some of his followers.
3) When Freddie gets drunk at the meeting and sits in the corner of the room picturing everyone but Lancaster naked, Peggy is the only person who returns his eye contact. I think PTA is telling us something both about Freddie's sexuality and Peggy's interpretation of who is lustful gaze might be directed at.
4) Following that, Peggy jerks off Lancaster from behind and implies that he needs to be discrete if he's to stray then she starts talking about how he and Freddie need to stop drinking so much. Again, there is the strong implication that Lancaster's feelings for Freddie are sexual in nature, that he's had affairs with men before and that Peggy's primary concern isn't having affairs but getting sloppy about perhaps revealing his true feelings for Freddie in public.
Now again, I think the way PTA subtly reveals those details is interesting and has caused people to perhaps overthink the last scene between Dodd and Quell. I think it is EXACTLY what it seems like. Dodd isn't just asking Quell to follow him. He's asking him to submit to him in the relationship the way he wants him to, and Quell simply can't do that because he doesn't feel the same way for many reasons.
Here's what I ultimately took away from the movie:
For Dodd, religion is about control and submission. For Freddie, it's about self actualization. But Dodd can never really master Freddie because he doesn't truly want to understand him. He just wants Freddie's submission.
The interesting thing is that Dodd does help Freddie grow. I think Freddie sort of figures out why he ran from Doris. I think the sexual encounter he has at the end of the movie is actually pretty hopeful. I think he's begun to bridge the gap between how he lusts for women and how he interacts with them.
But I found their last encounter kind of sad, in that Lancaster can never really truly come out and say he's in love with Freddie except by singing him that song.
Anyway, I loved the movie. I think it's one of the most open to interpretation movies I've ever seen which is part of what makes it so fun to dissect. But I definitely don't buy the idea that PTA is throwing things in just to throw people off. His choices are way too deliberate here for that.