It actually keeps surprising me how much liked and well received Paul Thomas Anderson always are but not because of the reason you might think. It surprises me because his movies are by no means easy to follow and don't always necessarily follow a clear main plot line. He's somewhat of a cross between an art house director and an old fashioned director, who allows the actors and images to tell the story, without constantly having to spell out everything for you. In other words; he's not a mainstream director and his movie's also aren't mainstream ones, by any stretch of the imagination. You could say that the foremost reason why he has a thriving Hollywood career and why studios love to back him up is thanks to the big name actors he attracts and who are always more than willing to work with him and to put their names in the posters, to draw in the crowd. And having said that, I'm glad it works out that way for Paul Thomas Anderson, fore his movies are always a rare, unique treat, that are often both fascinating and captivating to watch.

And whether you are going to fully understand this movie or not (and chances are you not) it will still leave you thinking- or have discussions about it afterward. That can be a great strength of a movie as well and makes it obvious this movie might have a more profound impact on you than you might first think that it did. As a matter of fact, the more you start thinking back about it, the more you'll be able to piece certain things together and make you start to appreciate the movie all the more.

There is not one real definitive meaning or point behind this movie, I believe though. You can take out of it whatever you are able to see and find in it. There is no wrong or right in regard to 'getting' this movie. It really all depends on your own perception of things.

Might sound confusing and terribly unappealing to you; a movie that's not really having a clear narrative in it, with a beginning, a middle and an end. But it's not. It's just storytelling done differently and in some ways more interestingly. If you still want to grab on to some form of more conventional storytelling, try to keep this in mind; characters in Anderson's movies are often first set up, then dissected and completely broken down and after that buildup again, as changed and almost completely new individuals. In that regard there always is still a more clear pattern and way of storytelling to always latch onto, as also is the case with this movie.

And really, there are so many ways you could take this movie, so it's also not like Im going to pretend that my interpretation of it is the ultimate one, or that I actually understood every aspect of the movie. But really, that doesn't change absolutely nothing about the fact that it's an absolutely fascinating and captivating movie to watch.

It basically is about two characters, rather than one, even though you could say they are more or less the same. The same in the sense that they are looking for the same sort of things, even though they are basically in all regards still complete opposites of each others. That's probably also why they are so drawn toward each other, on a more spiritual type of level. The Philip Seymour Hoffman character gives the Joaquin Phoenix character what he wants, which is guidance, in trying to help to let him make sense of things. A sort of father figure even, as starts to become more apparent toward the end of the movie. And the Philip Seymour Hoffman character gets what he wants, which is another loyal cult follower and a sort of pet project to toy around with and try new methods and theories out on, even though he probably knows very well he's a lost cause. But there is more to the whole relationship and both might admire each others lives and personalities, on different levels. Philip Seymour Hoffman is a more calculated and thoughtful person while the Joaquin Phoenix character is more of a loose cannon, doing everything on intuition and without ever holding back. In that way, both men also compliment each other. Whenever the Philip Seymour Hoffman character wants to get mad but has to restrain himself, he allows the Joaquin Phoenix character to go berserk. And whenever the Joaquin Phoenix character goes berserk, he has the Philip Seymour Hoffman character to back him up and help him through with his guidance.

Both are basically crazy but in totally different ways. Both try to have full control over themselves and their lives, by creating a comfort zone. The one by totally creating a world of his own, with a cult following and by controlling- and 'mastering' over others. The other also tries to live in his own world, by drinking a lot, even stuff that isn't alcohol related.

Of course it helps a tremendous lot that the two main characters get portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. Philip Seymour Hoffman is absolutely great in some moments but Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely great all throughout! It really is easily his best role till date and he deserves all the awards and praise he's getting for it. He completely transforms, making him even almost unrecognizable as Joaquin Phoenix in parts.

It's crazy though that only this movie its main actors are nominated (and well deserved) for an Oscar but it's not nominated for even one of the visual and technical awards. And both visually and technically this truly is an impressive movie as well. I'm not even talking about Paul Thomas Anderson's directing and storytelling approach but more so about the movie its look and atmosphere. It's set in the 1950's and the entire movie totally, looks, feels and smells that way. It's absolutely incredible to see, some of the stuff they pulled off for this movie. Guess it does in fact make a big difference on which format you shoot your movie. The cinematography is absolutely stunning, as are all of the period costumes and other minor details.

But lets end this before this review actually starts to become longer than the actual movie. After all, this is absolutely something you need to experience for yourself and not read about it. Only maybe afterward, to try to grow a better understanding of things and read about things from multiple different perspectives, which might make you like and appreciate the movie all the more. But chances are you are going to end up loving this movie regardless, simply based on your own interpretation of things. You are the very least going to love this movie for its acting and visual approach alone, if nothing else seems to be able to grab you, which is hard to imaging.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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