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The Master [2012] [R] - 8.5.9



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Unlike the MPAA we do not assign one inscrutable rating based on age, but 3 objective ratings for SEX/NUDITY, VIOLENCE/GORE and PROFANITY on a scale of 0 to 10, from lowest to highest, depending on quantity and context.

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Sex & Nudity
Violence & Gore
1 to 10


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After a mentally disturbed WWII veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) returns from the war, he is taken under the wing of the Master (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the charismatic leader of "The Cause," a faith-based movement. Also with Amy Adams, Jesse Plemons, Ambyr Childers and Patty McCormack. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. [2:17]

SEX/NUDITY 8 - We see a man and a woman having sex with the woman thrusting on top of the man (her bare breasts are visible) and we hear them both moaning sexually; the woman leans down to kiss the man.
 A wife chides her husband for encouraging a group of women at a party to get undressed and then asks the man if he would like to be manually stimulated; we hear him grunting and moaning sexually as we see her arm moving rapidly (she is standing next to him fully clothed and no nudity is visible) and the woman then washes her hand and throws the towel away, implying the man had climaxed. We see a man masturbating into the ocean, his bare buttocks are visible and we see his hand rapidly moving up and down. A woman grabs a man's crotch, and it is implied that she is rubbing his genitals through his clothing; they are in a crowded room and the woman's husband is close by.
 As a party progresses, we see men and women begin to dance and moments later all of the women (at least a dozen, including three older women) appear fully nude with their bare buttocks, breasts and genitals visible as they stand, sit and dance in the room. We see a group of shirtless men with their bare chests and backs visible on a beach.
 A man and a woman kiss passionately, the woman unbuttons her dress and we see a half-corset bra; she unhooks the bra and the man touches her bare breasts with one finger, poking her until the woman pushes his hands away and closes her dress. A man and 16-year-old girl kiss. A 16-year-old girl asks a man if she can kiss him and the man allows her to kiss him on the cheek. In front of a group of people, we see a man and a woman kiss.
 We see a teen girl and a man going on what appears to be a date; the man later explains to multiple people that he had been in a romantic relationship with the girl. A man writes on a piece of paper a crude offer to have sex with a woman and hands it to the woman, who takes the paper and smiles, ignoring the man's written offer.
 Several men standing on a beach laugh as they watch a man mimic manual stimulation on a female figure sculpted on sand; the man holds himself above the sand figure and pantomimes fondling its breasts and thrusting sexually multiple times and then violently punches the crotch-area -- we later see the man lying by himself, resting his hand on the breast. A man kisses the glass of a window; he then pantomimes masturbation in front of the window (he is fully clothed).
 As one man interviews another, the man repeatedly asks the other man if he had previously had sex with someone in his family and he shutters and then admits to having had sex with his aunt; as the man continues to ask the same questions, the man admits to having sex with his aunt three times previously because he was intoxicated and she "looked good." A woman reads a crude expletive erotic story about sex out loud, to a man and the story involves a woman being stroked sexually by a man. A young woman tells her father and mother that she believes a man "wants her." A doctor asks a man to describe inkblots on a card; the man describes a series of sex-acts and male and female genitalia. As part of a "therapy" session, we hear a woman in hypnosis imply that she could hear her own mother being forced to have sex with a man when she was pregnant and the woman "channels" her mother saying, "Not now, when she is in me." We see various sexual words written on a blackboard in a classroom. A wife implies that her husband was trying to have an affair and tells him that he is allowed to have an affair if she would never find out. A man admits to another man, during a rapid-fire interview, that he is attracted to the man's 20-year-old daughter. A man tells another man that the thought of other men putting hands on "his girls" (girlfriends) makes him sick. A man tells another man that in order to get rid of "crabs" you must shave one portion of genitals, so the crabs run to the other side and then set the pubic hair on fire.

VIOLENCE/GORE 5 - Two men push their way into an unseen man's apartment (we hear his voice as he opens the door), and we hear sounds of shouting and punching as it is implied the two men kill the man behind the door; we later hear one of the two attackers tell another man that he does not have to worry about the man any longer (implying that he had been killed) and the other man chides the attacker but also looks happy.
 A man moves a lamp closer and closer to another man's face as he poses him for a photograph; the man being posed begins to get angry, shouts at the photographer and shoves his hand away, the photographer grabs the man and they wrestle and slap one another, he pulls away and throws a vase at the man's feet (missing), and the man throws another vase then grabs a woman's hand and races away. A man grabs another man and places him in a headlock; the two men hold and wrestle one another to the ground and one of the men slaps the other man three times. A man angrily slaps and punches himself three times on the head as he rocks back and forth. Soldiers watch and cheer as three sets of two men wrestle on a beach. A woman slaps a man repeatedly to wake him from drunken sleep.
 Police officers approach a house and arrest a man while people watch; a man in the crowd begins to shout and tries to attack two police officers, he becomes wild and has to be restrained by multiple police officers who push him to the ground and we then see the man being carried into a jail cell with his arms restrained as he kicks violently, breaking the toilet seat in the cell and throwing his back against the bottom of a bunk, and then screams obscenities at a man in an adjacent jail cell, threatening him before eventually calming down.
 As a man paces rapidly from one side of a room to another (we see the man pace with his eyes closed between a window and a wall) he grows frustrated and pounds his fists against the wall, we also see the man slam into a table. A man violently grabs through a screen window (breaking the screen) to reach for a teen girl's face (to kiss her).
 A man shoves another man and then runs down a crowded hallway, and three men chase him through a field as the man continues to run (it is implied that the man is not caught). A man kicks a young man in the legs, shouts in the young man's face, shakes the chair the young man is sitting in and moments later the man sits down completely calm and has a normal conversation with the young man. A man shouts at another man, raising his voice increasingly in front of a room filled with people when another man in the background throws a roll at the shouting man and it hits him in the stomach; the man who threw the roll begins to laugh manically.
 Two men carry an elderly man to a bunkhouse, and two women tend to the extremely ill elderly man (it is implied that he got sick after drinking a man's homemade liquor); we later hear the man that made the homemade liquor say that he might have accidentally killed the elderly man. A man takes a drink of fluid (it could be gasoline) drained from a bomb.
 A man shouts at another man as the man rapidly rattles off a series of questions during an interview. A man asks another man if he had ever killed anyone and the man shouts at the other man in response. A doctor asks a man to describe a vision he had previously and the man grows angry and shouts at the doctor. A man shouts at another man. A man shouts at a woman and she is surprised. A man asks another man if he is trying to poison him with moonshine, after the man admits that his homemade liquor could have killed an elderly man. A man asks another man how many people he had killed previously; the man hesitates at first and then when asked again says that he had killed two people. A man tells another man that "processing" as a form of talk-therapy can cure leukemia. We hear a radio reporter announce that the "most awful, violent war" has ended. During a long-winded speech, a man describes marriage as being a dragon with blood-covered teeth. A man tells another man that his mother was in "the loony bin" but does not explain why; the man then adds that his father is deceased.
 Two men hug and tackle one another to the ground, laughing playfully as one drags the other around by his arms. At a party, a man walks around and steals objects from tables.
 We hear a man urinate with his back to the screen (no urination is visible). A man jokingly tells another man that he wants to flatulate on the man's face. A man flatulates loudly in front of another man and he laughs as the man jokingly chides him.

PROFANITY 9 - About 48 F-words and its derivatives, 7 sexual references, 7 scatological terms (3 mild), 8 anatomical terms, 2 mild obscenities, name-calling (aborted, scoundrel, unpredictable, silly animal, fool, idiot, pig [F-word deleted], horribly young man, dirty animal that eats his own feces when hungry, destructive, drunk, insane, selfish and alone, sick, dummy, drunk dummy, still ugly, insane), 3 religious exclamations. [profanity glossary]

SUBSTANCE USE - Throughout the movie we see a man in a near-constant state of drunkenness and he is constantly taking drinks from flasks, we see a man on three occasions "make" his own liquor from a combination of liquors and crushed up pills and paint thinner, a man gives an elderly man some home made liquor and the elderly man becomes extremely ill, a man steals rubbing alcohol from a hospital cart, a man drinks aftershave, a man offers a woman a swig from a flask and she grimaces as she takes a drink, we see a man appear to be passed out from drinking too much, we see a man sneak aboard a ship after drinking too much, a man tells another man that he did not know what was in a man's flask and that he drank all of it, two men drink liquor that a man had created (we hear one of the men gasp in shock after his first drink), on multiple occasions a woman warns a man that he can no longer be a drunk, a wife warns her husband that he cannot drink a man's homemade liquor any longer, a man tells another man that he is aggressive because he drinks too much, and a woman asks a man if he is drunk because he does not look healthy. Throughout the movie we see men and women smoking cigarettes, and a man asks another man to bring him a specific brand of cigarettes.

DISCUSSION TOPICS - Faith-based groups, cults, psychiatry, Scientology, subversive nature, hypnotism, PTSD, alcoholism, escapism, brainwashing, charismatic leaders.

MESSAGE - Charismatic people can be very convincing, which can lead to subverting one's critical faculties.

Special Keywords: S8 - V5 - P9 - MPAAR

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A CAVEAT: We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and some of our early standards were not as stringent as they are now. We therefore need to revisit many older reviews, especially those written prior to 1998 or so; please keep this in mind if you're consulting a review from that period. While we plan to revisit and correct older reviews our resources are limited and it is a slow, time-consuming process.

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