MASTER GARDENER – “An imperfect bloom, but captivating nonetheless”
Directed by: Paul Schrader (The Card Counter – 2021)
• Joel Edgerton as Narvel Roth
• Sigourney Weaver as Norma Haverhill
• Quintessa Swindell as Maya
• Eduardo Losan as Xavier
• Erika Ashley as Maggie
• Rick Cosnett as Stephen Collins
Narvel Roth is the meticulous horticulturist of Gracewood Gardens, a beautiful estate owned by wealthy dowager Mrs. Haverhill. When she orders Roth to take on her troubled great-niece Maya as his apprentice, his life is thrown into chaos and dark secrets from his past emerge.
Paul Schrader’s Master Gardener is an imperfect bloom, but captivating, nonetheless. There truly is a lot to like here. For one, the performances by Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver are A-grade. It’s an acting clinic from these 2, with Edgerton alone putting forth quite possibly a career best. The man says so much with just a look (the eyes say it all). Perhaps more importantly, however, is that there is an intriguing story at hand. Schrader is certainly no stranger to playing with characters with troubling back stories after all. Here, he gives our protagonist plenty to chew on in his road to redemption, pairing him with a troubled young girl in need of some tender, love and care. If I’m being honest though, the chemistry just wasn’t there between the two. Quintessa Swindell is a capable actress, but I never truly bought into her lure with Edgerton’s Narvel (he and Weaver’s character is a different story). Perhaps the film needed more time to build the bond? Although, things do move at slow pace already. While the first half is a slow burn for sure, the second half only picks up the pace slightly. It’s fine, just a little off kilter based on our director’s previous works. There’s obviously loads of metaphors to be drawn from the gardening aspect too. It’s clever and unique in many ways. But while Master Gardner is meticulous in its setup, its third act falters. Rushed? Perhaps. But it doesn’t pack the punch I hoped it would. Regardless, the film stands as an enjoyable crime thriller – even if the trills are slightly muted.
BOX OFFICE TOP 5