Freddie Quell (played by Joaquin Phoenix) is a war veteran during the World War 2 who became a portrait photographer later on in a department store. In order to cope with life after the war he became an alcoholic, he wandered in different places until he meets Lancaster Dodd(Philip Seymour Hoffman) a self-proclaimed renaissance man who, along with his wife, has created an organization known as 'The Cause'. Let's just say because of Freddie's flaws he became their guinea pig. They want to transform him or to change him into a better person, but Freddie is a force of nature, he cannot be tamed. Prior to the war he was in love with a young woman named Doris, more or less his problems came from the fact that he loved her, but instances prevented them from being together. Most likely he blame himself so he drinks his troubles away in order to be numbed from the pain. This movie may be about those people suffering from certain addictions and those organizations who heedlessly exploit their situation to their advantage. In order to acquire a non-cult status they needed people like Freddie who could give them a lift as a recognized group, that way they could further their ambitions. In my opinion, the word 'master' does not necessarily refer to Dodd but to some thing else may it be religion, person or substance.
According to write-ups this is partially based on the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. I have no idea about the man, but Scientology has become famous for its celebrity members such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and that is the extent of my knowledge about it. Some call it a religion and some say it's a cult. Either way I don't give a damn. There is a quote from the movie that says "Man is not an animal." However, in a Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde context a man relishes his inner animal when he is under the influence of drugs. Under that circumstance he acts foolishly like an animal because he is not his normal self. Scientology is known for preventing their members from using any form of medications even in the critical condition of life and death.
In the movie Dodd created several unproven interventions that could cure Freddie, but the latter is more impermeable than he thought. Maybe it's because in his heart Freddie does not believe in 'the cause' , he just goes with the flow to please them, just like most addicts do. They would always go back and forth doing the same old dangerous self- inflicting shit because number one, they are unhappy, and number two, they are sad. They have some deep unresolved issues and problems that they are too coward to face. Addicts are good with playing along because they are not afraid to disappoint you since they've been disappointed most of their lives. Freddie has no lord and no master, he only have the taste of liquor, the scent of a woman and his failed bitter self to hold him tight.
My three favorite sequences from this film are:
- When a random man questions Dodd about the methods and the effectvity of "The Cause" to cure leukemia. Dodd goes on a dialogue rampage, this one is a nail biting experience.
- When Freddie visited Doris's old house only to discover from her mother that she is already married to a man whose surname is Day.
- Conversation between Freddie and Dodd in London. That was a priceless moment. Especially when the latter said something about finding a "master".
Overall, I love this movie not for its attempt to sound like a smarty pants but because of the message it tries to impart on its viewers. I recommend multiple viewing (as always) in order to appreciate its contents.