The Power of the Dog is being heralded by my fellow critics as “one of the best films of the year” and I truly do not understand why. Yes, I understand the underlying message and narrative of this film and yes it’s one that needs to be told. While I have respect for what this film is trying to say and do, that doesn’t mean it gets a pass for being hopelessly dull and aimless. Having a powerful message embedded in your films narrative is fantastic but a film needs a whole lot more than that in order to succeed. It’s a real shame because I wanted to like this!
I’m a big believer that a film needs to a strong beginning to kick itself off. The start of The Power of the Dog fails to grab your attention in any way. I realize that this is set in the Old West and that the characters are not exactly happy people but you must find a way to engage your audience with the story that’s being told. The beginning feels very by the numbers and I hoped things were just being set up and that the film would become more interesting as it went along.
My hopes were dashed as I watched more and more. That failure to engage and lack of any real energy is a theme that permeates this entire film. I’m surprised I didn’t fall asleep watching this thing. There are a few scenes where the actors prove their worth, but these scenes don’t tie into a larger plot that is investing.
The plot to this is so vague and underdeveloped. I don’t know how people got through this and had a feeling of satisfaction afterwards. There is merit in the ideas of this film and I kept yearning for them to bring them to life but it just never happens.
The secret that ends up coming to light towards the end is a very interesting one but they don’t do anything with it. They reveal it and then seem to move on. I don’t understand why you would make a film with this kind of plot revelation and then not give it the attention it deserves. I was very pleased with the secret and I thought it was an opportunity to create something powerful but that opportunity was wasted.
Some are calling this film subtle and I think that is a gross understatement. The Power of the Dog is hollow, not subtle. There is such little effort on the part of the writers to give us a narrative that is cohesive.
This cast is experienced and talented. Kirsten Dunst does her best playing this terribly painful character and even though her character isn’t given much, she still shows how talented she is. Benedict Cumberbatch does a nice job too. He has several moments where we get to see his ability to be very intense when needed.
In my view though, the one that stands out amongst the heavy boredom that is this film, is Kodi Smit-McPhee. He really shows that he has what it takes to be a star. He’s able to convey emotion very well, sometimes with just a look. I hope I see him in better films in the future. In my view he is the only thing in this film that deserves an Academy Award nomination. I know this will receive a number of nominations but I just don’t think it’s deserving, the screenplay certainly isn’t.
The Power of the Dog is painfully dull and disappointingly hollow. The cast does their best but I’d only ever watch this again as a way to fall asleep.
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