I think my main problem with this movie is the same one I had with "There Will Be Blood"- namely, that even though I recognize that they're really well-made, well-acted movies with terrific performances, exceptional cinematography, excellent score, etc., I still can't really say that I enjoyed myself much watching them. Then again, maybe you're not really supposed to "enjoy" this movie as much as just experience it, I don't know. I think I would have to say that I would even choose to watch TWBB again before watching this again, because TWBB had a more involving story than this movie did.
I found myself agreeing with this guy's review. I'll quote the relevant sections:
In Anderson's first three movies (not counting "Hard Eight", which I haven't seen all the way through), he juggled many different storylines and characters and still made you care about everything that was going on. "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia" were amazing at this, almost Robert Altman-esque. "Punch-Drunk Love" was a smaller-scale movie but just as emotionally affecting, able to be funny and dramatic in equal measures.(comparing it to TWBB)"The Master" is more tonally secure, but just as narratively gap-toothed and unsatisfying, touching upon themes and figures without exploring them to any notable degree. With all in front of the camera standing at a chilly distance, there's plenty to ponder on the way out of the theater, but nothing to care about on a deeper plane.
With his last two movies, the casts have been a lot smaller and the lighter moments that give you a break from all the intensity almost non-existent. Again quoting that themovieboy's review:
I just kind of wish he'd make a movie like "Magnolia" again, although that may be asking the impossible. But similar to what's happened with Noah Baumbach, I think his movies have just gotten so into being Kubrickian and all about "look what a genius filmmaker I am" that he's kind of gotten away from the warmth and humanity of his earlier movies. I wasn't expecting this movie to be a laugh riot or anything, but some moments of lightness might have helped things a little bit (I guess the early scene where Phoenix's character takes a Rorschach test was somewhat funny).Anderson's last two efforts have been altogether lesser works—stuffier, not quite as ambitious, more scattered in their handling of characters, and in short supply of the go-for-broke electricity that his earlier films were conceived with.
I realize I may have missed the point of this movie. I know everyone will be falling all over themselves to talk about how great it was. Like Leonard Maltin said on this week's Doug Loves Movies, this is definitely going to be a movie that critics like more than the general populace.