‘Master Gardener’ Evaluation: Paul Schrader’s Solitary Man
Part of the kick of “Master Gardener” is that the writer-director Paul Schrader manages to drag off this unbelievable film. It shouldn’t work and, even after seeing it twice, I don’t assume that it solely does, which solely makes it extra fascinating and strengthens its energy. There’s a lot to admire in regards to the film’s tense dreaminess, its pulpy undertow and extreme class, in addition to the astonishing, awkward sincerity with which Schrader hurtles headlong at questions of affection, hate, race and redemption in an unforgiving world.
As has been the case in a lot of Schrader’s tales, this one facilities on a person who’s of this world and aside. That character — “God’s lonely man,” as he’s referred to as in “Taxi Driver,” which Schrader wrote — has appeared repeatedly in his filmography. That lonely man is right here once more, risen as soon as extra in “Master Gardener,” however now named Narvel Roth and performed like a clenched fist by Joel Edgerton. Stoic, pushed and watchful, Narvel works because the chief horticulturist for Gracewood Gardens, a cultivated wonderland someplace within the American South with fastidiously organized plantings and a shuddering chill within the air.
“Master Gardener” is the third installment in what Schrader has described as an unintentional trilogy that started along with his 2018 drama “First Reformed,” a couple of minister (Ethan Hawke) having a disaster in religion, and which continued three years later with “The Card Counter,” a couple of gambler (Oscar Isaac) with a brutal army previous. In all three films, a solitary, soul-weary man in disaster — who’s invariably seen alone in a room writing in a journal he shares in voice-over — undergoes a form of transfiguration. Each man meets a girl who tremendously strikes him, and every additionally experiences purgative violence (indirect and disturbingly literal), and thru each, every achieves grace or one thing prefer it.
Narvel doesn’t at first appear in disaster. The backyard he tends is owned by Norma Haverhill, a useless, imperious doyenne performed with terrifying hauteur by Sigourney Weaver. Everyone in Norma’s make use of calls her Mrs. Haverhill, which together with her eerie mansion — a plantation home — brings to thoughts a extra put-together Southern Miss Havisham. The title Norma, alternatively, appears an apparent cineaste nod to Norma Desmond, one other rich lady rattling round contained in the mausoleum that she’s fabricated from her life. Unlike Desmond’s backyard, although, Norma’s has not gone to seed, to borrow Schrader’s controlling metaphor, partly as a result of Narvel is nothing if not an obliging employee.