Vulture

Skip to content, or skip to search.

vulture investigates

Who Is The Master’s Master Masturbator?

It's okay. Don't feel dirty because you clicked on that headline. This is as serious as an awkward Philadelphia bathroom hand job. That scene in Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, in which Amy Adams's Peggy Dodd shows her husband (Philip Seymour Hoffman’s title character) who precisely is in charge of their relationship, is one of the film's more … memorable? (Is memorable the right word?) Arriving about an hour after an opening moment in which Joaquin Phoenix climaxes into the ocean, the Adams/Hoffman pas de deux made us remember that these three actors have all been forced to deal with the act on screen before. So which of the film's leads has been involved in the most memorable masturbation (or masturbation-adjacent) moments? We investigate.

Joaquin Phoenix

1. To Die For
Phoenix plays a young dude who is manipulated by a hot local TV news personality into killing her husband.

Moment
While watching a weather report, Phoenix's character falls into a reverie where he imagines the weather girl (played by Nicole Kidman) speaking directly and dirtily to him. Solo time ensues.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most pleasurable, this is a ...
10. He's a guy fantasizing about an attractive person on TV. Isn't this the essence of youthful male masturbation?

2. Parenthood
Phoenix plays an adolescent who likes to hang out with a paper bag. Or rather, the porn that is hidden inside the paper bag.

Moment
We obviously never see anything, but it is a plot point that gets dragged out for a bit and results in an awkward-funny scene between Keanu Reeves and Dianne Wiest in which he utters the line, "A few months ago, Garry got his first boner. Do you know what that is?"

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most pleasurable, this is a ...
5. Teenage guilt. It's a buzzkill.

3. The Master
Phoenix plays the alcoholic, war-tortured disciple of a fifties-America cult leader.

Moment
Early on, after faux-humping and finger-banging a woman made of sand while his fellow sailors stare on in amusement and then discomfort, Phoenix vigorously empties himself into the incredibly blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. World War II has ended!

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most pleasurable, this is a ...
Zero. We have trouble believing that this character actually takes pleasure in anything, so gnarled in body and spirit does he appear to be.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

1. Happiness
In this ironically titled film (lord is it depressing), Hoffman plays a sad, sweaty, unfortunate-looking man who likes to make obscene phone calls.

Moment
Hoffman's character calls up one of the female main characters and proceeds to ask her dirty uncomfortable questions while erotically massaging his junk. In one of the film's most shocking shots (literally), he ejaculates on the wall and then uses the substance to secure a postcard to the spot.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most pleasurable, this is a ...
3. It doesn't seem as if he feels bad about any of this, but it's hard to believe there's not a deep self-loathing undergirding his sexytime phone calls.

2. The Master
Hoffman plays the title character, the head of a nascent cult in postwar America.

Moment
He's on the receiving end of Amy Adams's ministrations. Hoffman grunts and moans and, oh, it's just very uncomfortable to watch. (You can see pieces of that scene in this new teaser for the film)

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most pleasurable, this is a ...
2. It did the job, but dude just got served by his wife.

Amy Adams

1. Junebug
Adams notched her breakout role (and first Academy Award nomination) in this 2005 indie film about a North Carolina prodigal son who brings his sophisticated British wife home with him to meet the family. Adams plays the sweet, overly talkative and very pregnant wife of the main character's reticent, angry brother.

Moment
In an attempt to feel a sense of connection to her distant, silent husband, Adams's character sadly touches herself to a picture of the two of them in happier times.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most pleasurable, this is a ...
2. So sad. So. Sad.

2. Cruel Intentions 2
A direct to video prequel to the 1999 high-school-set remake of Dangerous Liaisons, the film stars Adams in the role originally played by Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Moment
Sitting in Central Park (while drinking tea and being shadowed by a butler, naturally), Adams's character instructs a young charge on how to ride a horse. "Push up and down in the saddle … Now we need to add the back and forth motion … Up and down, back and forth, faster, faster … Now this time I really want you to grind into the saddle." The student falls off satisfied and Adams stands with a naughty grin on her face, having essentially used the horse as a proxy.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most pleasurable, this is a ...
9. Everyone involved seems to have come out on the other side a happy camper. Except for the butler maybe?

3. The Master
As the wife to nascent cult leader Lancaster Dodd, Adams's character is one of those behind-the-scenes spouses that have more power than is initially apparent.

Moment
Adams jerks off her husband into a bathroom sink while ordering him to keep his philandering under wraps and to lay off the powerful moonshine produced by his protégé/guinea pig. Her disdainful hand wiping at scene's end is possibly the year's most masterful towel-related piece of acting.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most pleasurable, this is a ...
3. Again, that wiping of the soiled upper hand.

So, who is The Master's master masturbator?
Amy Adams! While Hoffman delivers the most uncomfortable moment and Phoenix the most vigorous, Adams wins in terms of both number and variety.

Photo: Weinstein Company