Digging too deep into Paul Thomas Anderson's parallel character piece is just an exercise in frustration. Much like Laura Dern confronting Philip Seymour Hoffman with liturgical inconsistencies, 'The Master' will bob and weave away from any simple interpretation. Its surface pleasures, however, are no consolation prize. Joaquin Phoenix's Freddie Quell, hunched over and hollow, is the performance of a lifetime.

Best part: Department store freak-out.