A week or so ago, our Christopher Campbell wrote a piece posing the burning question: What is the Meaning of The Master? The fact is, he isn’t the only one asking. Some have harshly compared writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson to the film’s “titular” cult leader, believing Anderson also has no clue what he’s trying to say. Campbell theorized, “Maybe the reality is that there is nothing there. And yet maybe that lack of meaning is in fact its meaning,” but then went on to discount that interpretation of the film’s point, along with others. What is Anderson trying to say about religion? Is he saying, as Campbell speculates, that it’s all meaningless? In simple reality, to the obvious disappoint of many, is that Anderson is attempting to do no such thing. Even as it attempts ephemeral whatdoesitallmean-ness, The Master can be broken down to one simple sentence: a beautiful, tragic friendship between someone who has no interest in answers and a man who knows he has none of them. It’s solely a story of two distinct men, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) and Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Some could argue that’s too simplistic of a story for Paul Thomas Anderson, but Anderson has never been a “message” filmmaker. He’s always been a “relationship” filmmaker. The Master strives to be nothing more than another character study from Anderson told on a big, bold, beautiful canvas, not a hard-hitting critique of religion.