Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Screenplay Review: The Master



The following review for a screenplay called "Untitled PT Anderson Scientology" was posted by someone's blog titled "The Cinematic Experience Of Forizzer" and made aware to the world via The Playlist.

The following will most certainly contain specifics. If you do not wish to have the film spoiled for you in anyway, please do not highlight the text pasted below:

Heyo, I’m back. Computer is fixed and I’ve quite a few things to review (The Last Station and some classics I caught over the past week+). I’ve also gotten into the habit of reading scripts and fortunately for me, I have connections and was able to read the Untitled Scientology script by Paul Thomas Anderson. One of the few in the world, I believe, so I’m quite content with myself.
PLOT SYNOPSIS: Freddie, a young man in his mid-20s, has his appendix burst. Not very much a man too concerned for family, he found his calling in the Navy. With a burst appendix, he can no longer handle the rigorous tasks the Navy calls upon their men. Isolated and looking for his calling, Freddie becomes an alcoholic at the snap of finger; so much so that he brews his own ale — an ale so strong that, when in southern US, a poor immigrant worker drinks ‘an unbalanced quantity’, goes into convulsions and is assumed to have died while Freddie scampers away from the site.
Afraid of being caught, Freddie hops aboard the first vessel he spots. Half drunk out of his mind, half worried for his life and half looking for work, this type of calculation indicates the mess that is Freddie. Aboard the ship, a man that goes by Master (the role Philip Seymour Hoffman is set to portray) begins to guide Freddie. He asks him odd questions and tries to rid the young man of his dependencies. Master is an allegorical L. Ron Hubbard, for the curious.
Master has a family — a wife and four children (three daughters, one about to get married, and a son) — and a group of followers that adhere to everything he says. He’s also skeptical of strangers, which allows for quite a frantic… but usually composed character. It will be vastly interesting to see what Philip Seymour Hoffman does with the role — it’s his most varied and unique to date.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: The script was mashed together rather haphazardly. There’s plentiful segments that say “Insert Dialogue at a Later Date” or varients of that. The composition of it all is rather amateur as well. If one were to pick this script up, they’d assume this person had no script writing program or spell check (there are a fair share of spelling errors). 
The story itself is very peculiar. There’s sexual perversion in parts, extreme moments of eccentricity from Master, lots of interesting theories about life and the purpose of it, and even some humor slighting Scientology. If one expects this story to completely laugh at Scientology, think again. It’s more demonstrative of loneliness and why someone would find solace in the least likely of religions as opposed to a flagrant foul against the belief. It’s partially jumbled in what it means to preach, script-wise, but I believe that this will all find further clarity with a the script revisions that follows and the inevitable direction of the feature.
For the lead role of Freddie, I imagined a Paul Dano type. Perhaps a little bit bulkier as one would imagine a slightly bloated gut to accompany alcoholism and a burst appendix. Someone mostly scrawny and who can play off drunkenness well will do favorably in this part. Hoffman as Master is a wicked choice — expect a second Oscar win for what he puts himself through. The rest of the cast is rather plain… it’s like a The Last King of Scotland in that sense: two major characters and everyone else just, well, there.
It reads at 124 pages. If you go the traditional minute per page, you get just over two hours. Of course, I think that’s too simply a strategy, so I go by what I feel it is. The first 10-15 pages are heavily descriptive, so I imagined them slightly longer. I figure this will be about 135 minutes long without credits. So perhaps 140 minutes overall.
FINAL WORD: Poorly written, but excellently constructed, Untitled Scientology is one of the better scripts I’ve ever read (not too big a feat, but…). In addition, it has an ending that will keep you thinking — I know it has for me, and I read it two days ago. So I suppose I’ll toss this script an 8/10. PTA’s assembling of it all might raise it to a 9 when all is said and done. Yeah, it’s good. And no, you may not have the script. 

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