With the flush of movies that opened recently, it's sometimes easy to get lost in the shuffle, especially during the pandemic era. Acclaimed filmmaker Jane Campion ("The Piano") did receive lots of accolades on the critics and film fest circuit for her latest, the period Western drama "The Power of the Dog." Still, after its worldwide streaming debut on Netflix on December 1, it seems to have not garnered as much attention from mainstream audiences. That's understandable, with "Spider-Man: No Way Home" pretty much soaking up all the cinematic sunshine. But now in early January, it's a good time to stop and smell some more roses. We know "The Power of the Dog" has been a hit with hard core cineastes. Does it work as well for casual movie fans looking to queue up something good? Read below for Noovie's "The Power of the Dog" review.
Reasons to Watch
- This is sumptuous filmmaking at its peak. The movie tells the tale of a widow (Kirsten Dunst) and her son (Kodi-Smit McPhee), who are taken in by a kind-hearted ranch owner (Jesse Plemons). The owner's brother (Benedict Cumberbatch), who also owns and operates the ranch, is another story. He's brutish towards the mother, and especially the son. All involved are headed for a reckoning. While the film takes its time getting there, if you can surrender to its rhythms, this is one beautiful, and unpredictable journey. The cinematography by Ari Wegner and music score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood are especially notable.
- The cast is perfect. Dunst, who's been making movies since she was the young daughter in "Interview with a Vampire," impresses here as a sensitive woman who's been through the ringer. McPhee is also amazing, as a fragile college student who's out of place in the wild, but not necessarily in an ever-expanding world. And Benedict Cumberbatch is Oscar worthy as a male's male cowboy, who also struggles with his real identity. Plemons rounds out the ensemble as a man whose tenderness is genuine.
- Campion's direction and writing (the story's based on a novel by Thomas Savage) respects audiences' ability to hang with the movie's turns and complexities. It's a Western, yes, but a drama and a mystery as well. All of the characters are allowed to be complicated and surprising.
- While "The Power of the Dog" is most definitely an independent art-house film, some of those moviegoers, and many commercial movie fans, may find the pacing still too arch and slow. That's by design, but not all will see it as a good thing.
- We're firmly in the camp that Cumberbatch is fantastic in this movie, and it may very well be his best performance. But others may see him, and perhaps the rest of the cast, as giving performances calculated for awards, rather than truly inhabiting the period characters.
Watch or Not?
Noovie's assesment with our "The Power of the Dog" review? Jane Campion is one of the most nuanced, excellent filmmakers around, and you should watch "The Power of the Dog," now on Netflix, as soon as possible.
This is a gorgeous movie, and multi-layered story that's extremely well-told. It moves to its own beat, and is all the more wonderful because of it. Enjoy one of 2021's best movies. It's amazing, and we can't wait to see what Campion will be up to next.
November 17, 2021
Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.