Straight from the opening shot, a lingering view of Joaquin Phoenix’s character Freddie Quell, you have the feeling this film is going to be special. It might be because it was the first movie shot on 65mm film since 1996, but at the start of the film I was blown away by what I was seeing. Beautifully framed shots and a perfect recreation of a time period around the second world war. There is a moment in a photo studio where you’d swear you are seeing archival footage or pictures of that times brought to life through some digital trickery. Those first couple of minutes had me hooked and I was prepared to join Freddie Quell, a struggling alcoholic, on his journey. It’s a shame then that at the end of the 144 minute running time I was lost.
The movie is about the struggle of two very different men. One is Freddie, the other one Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is the leader of a cult known as The Cause. This cult has all types of processes to make people join them and sort of brainwash them. Processes which are, as far as I’ve heard, very similar to what scientology does (for example answering question while you are not allowed to blink or you’ll have to start over). Although Freddie and Lancaster are completely different they gravitate to each other as they both see things in each other they themselves seem to be lacking. Because of it the two start an odd friendship and as a viewer you witness its development.
The movie is a constant battle of egos, but which I never found satisfying to watch. The performances of both Phoenix and Hoffman are stunning as they show they are acting powerhouses. The movie is about their personalities and the friction it causes, but never was I truly invested, constantly waiting for something bigger to happen, which never took place. I can perfectly understand people will love this film as there are a lot of things to like about it. Personally though it just didn’t manage to keep me entertained, or should I say hooked and if a movie doesn’t manage to do that I can’t give it a higher score.