Updated as they roll in...
B+ from The Playlist:
"In Freddie Quell, Anderson has written an immensely passive character to center the film around, and while in its initial reels the sense of meandering spontaneity feels exciting and dangerous, in the latter half it simply feels listless. It is a sprawling film as well, jumping from California to Philadelphia, Phoenix to England, and combined with Phoenix’s wandering journey, the film’s 2+ hour runtime becomes increasingly felt. Combine that with an ending fit for many interpretations, and it adds up to an aggressively layered, distanced finish to a seemingly unresolved narrative."
A- from The Film Stage:
"It’s that aggressively enigmatic type of storytelling that makes The Master the most cryptic film Anderson has made yet. It’s often an electrifying move, removing us from scene-to-scene concerns that Freddie clearly gives no mind to, and powerfully distilling the volcanic emotion of the situations. But it is, too, a rather frustrating quality of the film. On too many occasions, the ins-and-outs of Lancaster’s delusional group feel aimlessly repetitive, and there are times throughout the movie when the process of trying to dig up the meaning of a scene or a conversation is so demanding that two possible conclusions come to mind — either there truly isn’t one at all, which I suppose would fit with the film’s chaotic agenda, or there is one, and we simply need some of Freddie’s moonshine to help unearth it."
4.5 out of 5 from Cinemixtape:
"Despite its significant successes, “The Master” is not a film about big moments. It won’t appease those looking for a cathartic narrative or relatable characters. It’s difficult to digest in one sitting and one’s opinion of it is likely to change from viewing to viewing. The pacing is tight but the narrative is formless, making it a formidable challenge for less experienced moviegoers. Critical reaction should range from “good” to “great,” and after one viewing, I come down in the middle – it’s not quite as great as the sum of its parts. But, Paul Thomas Anderson’s vision is unflinching – the film will provoke endless discussion and interpretation – and Joaquin Phoenix is a revelation. His performance alone makes “The Master” a must-see for discriminating audiences."
A- from The Movie Mash:
"Prepare yourself for something special when you go to The Master. It’s not quite like Anderson’s past work, but you feel the DNA of his style here. No other filmmaker would have made this film, but it stills feels fresh in Anderson’s repertoire. He is clearly still evolving, but one thing is certain – he knows how to rely on his actors. The casting is perfect in The Master. At one point I thought back to Shia LaBeouf’s recent questionable comments on his future in acting and thought, “LaBeouf is going to be pissed off he missed this role.” Yet, if LaBeouf played Freddie, I imagine the character would have seemed less deliberate and more childish. Childish this film is not. It is the very definition of mature cinema. It’s thought-provoking, unnerving, tense and a little perverted at times. It’s a must-see."
Time Out Chicago:
"Easily the strangest and most esoteric picture Anderson has ever made -- and frankly too much to unpack and digest in one viewing. ... One looks forward to seeing a visionary work like this again and again -- not just to unravel its secrets, but also simply to bask in its aesthetic wonders."
THE MASTER was a Paul Thomas Anderson movie alright. You're either going to love it or hate it. Tense. Unpredictable. A little perverted.— Mike Eisenberg (@Eisentower30) August 17, 2012
THE MASTER in 70mm was so gorgeous my eyes nearly exploded. And it is ripe with flawless acting. Also reminded me a lot of The Godfather.— Mike Eisenberg (@Eisentower30) August 17, 2012
THE MASTER (A-) Addicting, aimless chaos, emoted with deranged precision by Phoenix. Electrifying cinema, aggressively cryptic storytelling.— Danny King (@thekingbulletin) August 17, 2012
PT Anderson's The Master might be his most humanist work to date. As much a companion to PDL as TWBB.— John Rangel (@parksidefilms) August 17, 2012
THE MASTER is not at all like PTA's other films. It's a bit of an enigma with detachment & intensity that I need to "process" over time— Jim Laczkowski (@instantjim) August 17, 2012
Never has a movie felt so cryptic & compelling yet it feels like it's less about something in particular to where i wonder about its intent— Jim Laczkowski (@instantjim) August 17, 2012
Basically, The Master is Amnesiac to There Will Be Blood's Kid A.— graefist (@jongraef) August 17, 2012
Walking home to digest The Master. Gorgeous piece of film. PTA may have cemented spot as the best of his generation— Music. Defined. (@Music_Defined) August 17, 2012
I know that THE MASTER was about physical vs. spiritual, but beyond that, I've got nothing.— Wine & Pop (@WineAndPop) August 17, 2012
I think of myself as a pretty intellectual man, but I'm not great at understanding PTA movies the first time through.— Wine & Pop (@WineAndPop) August 17, 2012
The Master is one awesome, crazy mess of a movie. Can't wait for a second viewing!— Dr. Neptune (@DrNeptune) August 17, 2012
The Master was good.Great performances. Lots to think over. 70mm looked amazing such detail yet softness. Felt like IMAX but small screen.— Phillip Jackson (@phil_jackson) August 17, 2012
The Master is a beautifully crafted meditation on salvation, love, and art. It's a tad sloppy, but its beyond inspired.— Josh Brunsting (@joshbrunsting) August 17, 2012
And Phoenix gives his career best performance. There is one scene that may be the best I've ever seen from any actor in years.— Josh Brunsting (@joshbrunsting) August 17, 2012
I don't know what to say about The Master at this point other than it is pretty, and the acting is superb.— Amby Ray (@KoalaInChicago) August 17, 2012
The Master was beautiful. What a wonderful experience in 70mm. No one does it better than PTA.— Mark Schoeck (@MarkSchoeck) August 17, 2012
See THE MASTER in 70mm and then talk about digital as "progress." Yeah, didn't think so.— Scott Tobias (@scott_tobias) August 17, 2012
One more thing about THE MASTER: It's comically resistant to insta-reaction. A lot of strands in old Duder's head right now.— Scott Tobias (@scott_tobias) August 17, 2012
If you need me, I'll be at sea mulling over— B.G. Loony (@TheMentalDefect) August 17, 2012
#TheMaster for the rest of the year.
So The Master is pretty good.— Handles Messiah (@Handles_Messiah) August 17, 2012
Phoenix is great in The Master, but his performance will turn some people off. 1/3rd of his dialogue is borderline unintelligible.— Handles Messiah (@Handles_Messiah) August 17, 2012
Not a bit surprised that the immediate reaction to THE MASTER is "I need to process it." I'll take my first crack at a review in the morning— Steve Prokopy (@CaponeAicn) August 17, 2012
— Mark Colomb (@PoorChoicesHost) August 17, 2012
#themaster was beautiful.Amazing to look at.Anytime Hoffman and Phoenix are together the movie is phenomenal.
Just saw "The Master"...Not great entertainment, but possibly informative? Not quite sure what to say about it. Have to sleep on it maybe...— DerekBridges (@11tiethDoctor) August 17, 2012
Hoffman. Phoenix. Adams. Anderson. ALL at their absolute best. Do not ask me about the film. NEEDS thought and 2nd viewing.— Andrew Rostan (@AndrewRostan) August 17, 2012
The acting and direction in— Gaby Bondi (@GabrielleAdelle) August 17, 2012
#TheMaster are impeccable. No doubt about that. The story? Still wrapping my head around it.
Wow.— Cigarettes&RedVines (@cigsandredvines) August 17, 2012
When you guys buy tickets to The Master next month, go ahead and buy 2. Like There Will Be Blood, a second viewing will be mandatory.— PatrickRipoll (@PatrickRipoll) August 17, 2012
— Brian Tallerico (@Brian_Tallerico) August 17, 2012
#TheMaster70mm should make all those who led the charge for digital filmmaking weep in shame.
If you know what is going on the head of any of the characters in— timhorsburgh (@timhorsburgh) August 17, 2012
#TheMaster, then you are a better Thetan than I.
Characters in The Master way more satisfied than the audience. Looked great though. Well-acted. Didn't care much though.— Linus Lee (@TheLinusLee) August 17, 2012
Going to need some time to mull over— Chris Zois (@zoischicago) August 17, 2012
#TheMaster I will say 70mm is gorgeous
— Ray Pride (@raypride) August 17, 2012
#THEMASTER70mm demonstrates a deep concern for its historical inspiration: readers of certain lore of personality may be amazed.