Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, like many of his previous films, is a burrowing down into the psyche of America from a key point in the nation’s history.
Set in the early 1950s, amid America’s search for a deeper sense of happiness and purpose in the aftermath of the Second World War. One man believes he has found a solution: Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a self-styled “writer, doctor, nuclear physicist and theoretical philosopher” and leader of The Cause, a cult that is not entirely unlike the Church of Scientology. Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), an alcoholic drifter and former naval officer, stumbles onto a San Francisco pleasure boat on which a Dodd family wedding is taking place, and the pair strike up a flirtatious rapport. Freddie is welcomed into The Cause with open arms. With every passing scene, Dodd’s grip tightens around Freddie’s mind, and indeed the film itself: Hoffman seeps demagogic charisma here, delivering his nonsensical pronouncements with total conviction while Dodd’s wife Peggy (Amy Adams) mews to Freddy, “You inspire him.” via nitehawk
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