Self-help and self-improvement will always be an option for those who have recently suffered some sort of change or loss. In The Master Cleanse, the internal baggage of bad mojo from a past emotional trauma comes out in a different way.
Paul Berger (Johnny Galecki) has lost his job and fiancée. He’s really sad, kind of awkward and can’t take his living situation which includes numerous vermin and loud, horny neighbours. Amidst all the self-help static late one night, the “Let’s Get Pure” retreat jumps out at him. Ready to get his life back on track, and loose that dead weight of extra pounds and sadness, Paul is chosen to go on the organization’s 3 day cleanse retreat. He’s thrilled to be accepted, especially since Maggie (Anna Friel), a pretty fellow attendee, is also going.
At the retreat grounds, not unlike summer camp cabins, a select group of people drink vile liquids from jars as well as supplements in a 3 stage process in order to get to the final cleanse. Illness brings forth an unexpected surprise, and the chosen group must come to terms with what they’ve manifested in ways they thought they would never have to deal with.
The Master Cleanse is quite a strange film. It’s like a cautionary tale that warns us to take self-care seriously in a not so serious way. Moments of dark comedy gets a coating of melancholy as most of us can relate to the desperation of wanting to feel unburdened. There are creatures involved and they’re cute, giving emotional baggage a face that makes you want to hold and keep it, which is the point. We get used to the monsters that hold us back, and director and writer Bobby Miller gets literal with his story.
The entire cast is great with the standout being the ever dry Anjelica Huston playing the retreat coach, Lily, with a psychotic camp counselor gusto. Lily is also the wife of Ken Roberts (Oliver Platt) who is the head honcho of the whole movement. When he appears, the film becomes an examination of the characters enabling habits and gets a little weird. Galecki also gives a solid performance that isn’t too far of a stretch from his The Big Bang Theory nerd Leonard Hofstadter (just a lot sadder).
Some may find the literal nature of The Master Cleanse a difficult pill to swallow, but the cute representation of one’s inner pain softens the reality of truth with a lot of quirk.
Thursday, October 20, 7:00 PM, Scotiabank Theatre