The Master‘s great and all, loads I could talk about, but its such an intangible film (i.e. it’s more about character and mood, than action or story), it’s not something I can really be bothered to go into too much here. Rather, there was just one tiny detail in the ending that somewhat retroactively soured my enjoyment of the rest of the film. Hopefully by pointing it out, I can get over it, come to terms with it, or get an answer or justification that satisfies me – and hopefully at the same time not colour your own opinions on what is clearly a fascinating piece of work.
It’s not about how the narrative ended up with a coda that mirrors that of There Will Be Blood (an adopted son returns to his father figure, now established in a large complex, built from his subsequent success, and they end up seemingly parting ways, followed by an inversion of a previous emotionally-charged encounter between two characters). Here, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is compelled to visit Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) again, who has newly set up shop in England. After their meeting, he encounters a young woman in a pub and they end up in bed together. The woman is called Winn Manchester. That is her name, and that bugged the hell out of me.
Winn Manchester? Is that the best PTA could come up with? It’s like in The Simpsons when they need to come up with a fake British town (something like “Poncerby-on-Thames” or “Little Tiddlington”), or a garbled approximation of a famous footballer in International Superstar/Pro Evolution Soccer (e.g. “David Backham”). Okay, it’s not like the main characters – or even the actors who play them – are exactly “Joe Average” in the moniker department, and yes, Manchester can be a genuine surname, but it just sounds clumsy. To an American audience, it sounds perfectly legit, to me she sounds like she’s from an Austin Powers movie. Trouble is, you think of a daft U.S. equivalent, and you’ve probably already been beaten to it (Johnny Utah, anyone?).
Perhaps, its’ because Winn Manchester represents something of a flipped version of Quell’s relationship with Dodd. He repeats the same interrogation technique used on him by Dodd earlier on – hence the repetition of her name that caused me to be irritated in the first place – but in this instance, the Servant has become the Master. Therefore, her choice of name is just an extra hint – both Manchester and Lancaster are in the north-west county of Lancashire (or at least were at the time of the film’s setting), both feature double repeated consonants at the end of their other name (DoDD, WiNN)…or am I just thinking too hard on this?
If someone out there can just say “Yeah, I thought the same thing”, or “No, that didn’t bother me”, maybe I can lay this all to rest and collect my actual thoughts on the film proper. Unlikely, but worth a shot.