Paul Thomas Anderson isn’t done drinking faith and religion’s milkshake, and is traveling to the 1950s in order to do it again. PTA has written Philip Seymour Hoffman a role that Mike Fleming describes as “a charismatic intellectual who hatches a faith-based organization that begins to catch on in America in 1952.” Hoffman’s character, referred to as “The Master” hatches a relationship with a young devoted follower, Freddie. As Freddie becomes The Master’s “lieutenant” he starts reconsidering his position in the increasingly successful cult (I smell a troubled father/son dynamic a brewin’).
Anderson is apparently interested in delving into the human need for god-like figures and unexplainable higher beings, as well as how religious devotion forms out of beliefs and spiritual fulfillment. While the cult movement connection (specifically with Scientology) is obvious, I’m inclined to believe PTA will deliver a more nuanced and decidedly ambiguous look at these ideas. The brilliance of There Will Be Blood partly lies in its ability to read as a criticism of so many things (organized religion, capitalism…) yet none of the characters exist as simple 1:1 allegorical figures. It’s a complexity I hope PTA can achieve again.
Universal is still waiting to put eyes on a script before putting pen to a (35 million dollar) check, but I’m sure we’ll hear more from this soon.