A self-destructive loner (Joaquin Phoenix), discharged from the navy after serving in the Pacific in World War II, flounders back in the States before coming under the wing of a charismatic religious leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman) transparently based on L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. This challenging, psychologically fraught drama is Paul Thomas Anderson's first feature since the commanding There Will Be Blood
(2007), and like that movie it chronicles a contest of wills between an older man and a younger one, as the troubled, sexually obsessed, and often violent young disciple tries to fit in with the flock that's already gathered around the master. This time, however, the clashing social forces aren't religion and capitalism but, in keeping with the era, community and personal freedom—including the freedom to fail miserably at life. The stellar cast includes Amy Adams, Laura Dern, and Jesse Plemons.