The Power of the Dog

The Power of the Dog ★★

THE POWER OF THE DOG (Jane Campion, USA, 2021, 4) 

Jonny Greenwood’s sharp and stabbing score is great, the vistas are both gorgeous and foreboding, the piano-banjo duet scene has 10 Skandies points secured. The rest … [yawn].

Campion makes another movie about an aggravatingly recessive “heroine” in the wilderness who gets a piano shipped to her. Oh … and there’s lots of … guess … [spoiler] … toxic masculinity that eventually becomes The Big H. (Really … in 2021, is there a bigger cliche than this? And a more-subtly “homophobic” one.)

Really, if you can believe Jesse Plemons and Benedict Cumberbatch are brothers, can imagine Cumberbatch as the Marlboro Man, can look at a prissy male doing the hula hoop ~1920 without laughing, and tolerate more on-the-nose symbolism than you can shake a phallus at … then, have at this hysterical and overwrought “demystification.” What on earth does it mean for a member of the intellectual classes to “demystify” or “subvert” tropes that nobody in the intellectual classes believes any more.

Makes me more appreciate the thematically similar BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, which at least manages to be coherent from scene to scene, while Campion seemingly disdains on-principle plotting and signposting as middlebrow. It’s not a coincidence that her best film (AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE) is hemmed in plotwise (or nonplotwise, I guess) by biopic conventions.