A charismatic rancher's brother marries a depressed widow, and the
rancher torments them relentlessly until he starts to mentor the widow's son.
The Power of the Dog (2021)
Written and Directed by Jane Campion
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Frances Conroy, Keith Carradine
Based on the novel by Thomas Savage
Oscar Wins - Best Director
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), Best Supporting Actor (Jesse Plemons),
Best Supporting Actor (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Best Supporting Actress (Kirsten Dunst), Best Adapted Screenplay,
Best Production Design, Best Sound, Best Film Editing,
Best Cinematography, Best Original Score (Jonny Greenwood)
I watched a little over half of The Power of the Dog months ago, when it first arrived on Netflix in late 2021. I didn't care for it. I didn't even bother to finish it. Then, it scored twelve Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and acting noms for the entire principal cast. With that kind of recognition, I felt it deserved another look on my part. Having now watched the entire film, I understand most of the film's critical acclaim. Do I think it deserves Best Picture? No, I do not. It is still frightfully dull at times, and has a painfully rushed ending after over two hours of character development and narrative buildup. Visually, it's a marvel, and the performances are fantastic.
Phil Burbank (Cumberbatch) is a bit of a monster. He has a reputation for berating anyone he deems unworthy of his time, and he despises anyone who tries to change his ways. His brother George (Plemons) marries a widow named Rose (Dunst), who brings her teenage son Peter (Smit-McPhee) into Phil's life. At first, Phil tries his hardest to torment Rose and Peter, making it very known that they're intruders and not considered family. This treatment drives Rose to drink, and after Peter catches Phil in an embarrassing situation, Phil tries to teach Peter the ways of the cowboy. The film is a vicious slow burn, and that can be irritating at times. It doesn't need to be over two hours long, and the ending is so quick that you wonder why Jane Campion bothered to drag everything out for development's sake.
The Power of the Dog is character driven within an inch of its life. Cumberbatch commands the screen as Phil, and his chemistry with Kodi Smit-McPhee especially is something to pay attention to. I think Plemons and Dunst were good, but not particularly Oscar worthy, whatever that means to you. It took a second watch for me to fully appreciate the film, and I still didn't think it was the undisputed masterpiece it's been hailed as.