Director; Jane Campion. Starring; Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Kodi Smith-Mcphee. Color. Rated R. 126 minutes.
When it comes to a serious film such as director Jane Campion’s powerful new story, multiple aspects shine. No arguing the acting, cinematography, controversial story line and overall story arc are well played. The only problem, the final twenty minutes, for lack of a better word, just wander. Rarely do you see a movie that abruptly ends that leaves the audience with the feeling of “there was something else that was supposed to happen, right?”
Two wealthy ranch owning brothers in 1925 from Montana, Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Burbank (Jesse Plemons), stumble upon a widow and Inn owner named Rose (Kirsten Dunst) during a standard cattle drive. The bitter older brother Phil loves to mock Rose’s young son Peter (Kodi-Smith McPhee) who has a lisp and also displays several ‘feminine’ qualities that do not translate in the world of the old west.
Phil is instantly against his younger brother’s infatuation for this stranger, particularly when Rose uses George’s money to send her son off to college to study medicine. The fast-tracked marriage doesn’t exactly put a good taste in the mouth of a bitter old man. Things with George and Rose continue to escalate, including a post wedding dinner party with the governor where George attempts to showcase Rose’s worth based on her skills playing piano. She is not exactly the next Mozart as Phil pressures her to play because he knows that she will choke. After taking a drink during the party, Rose becomes an alcoholic months before her child comes home from school.
With a new level of ‘TOLD YOU SO!’ confidence, Phil gets back to work on the ranch. He feels free and at that point his closet homosexuality comes out. He masturbates into a handkerchief belonging to his mentor. While staying at the Burbank estate after school, Peter witnesses Phil swimming around with the handkerchief around his neck in the pond. That unexpected experience has the angry Phil becoming more human towards his new nephew. From killing a stray rabbit to sharing stories of finding a father that hung himself, the characters’ relationship grows in a way that makes the drunk mother very uncomfortable. And I will leave the rest of the story for you to discover.
The biggest problem with “The Power of the Dog” is that there is nothing more to discover from that point. Technically, you’ve got everything asked for when it comes to an Oscar worthy picture. And yet, the last 30-ish minutes truly feel like a race to the finish line as opposed to a triumphant victory or a tragic conclusion. While I strongly disagree with the famous actor Sam Elliot about his public comments that the “The Power of the Dog” is not a ‘REAL WESTERN’ because it has homosexual undertones, it is instead not a classic western because it just fades off into nothing. This film feels very much like those soft-voiced audio tapes you listen to while trying to get to sleep. It starts off great, but do you remember what happened in the end? No, because you were asleep by that point.
Suck Factor: 3 out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
The SUCK FACTOR! How it works. We have flipped the script on the standard ratings system. If you make a masterpiece such as “The Godfather” you receive a perfect 0 on the SUCK FACTOR scale. If you make horrible nonsense such as a Michael Bay movie you receive a not-so-perfect 7 out of 7. That means you movie really SUCKS!