The Power Of The Dog


I thought it was based on the Don Winslow book.

When I know I’m going to see a movie I don’t read the reviews. The unfolding experience is what entrances me, which is why I’m so pissed that trailers reveal so much. Then again, I never go to the movies anymore so I don’t see trailers. “The Power of the Dog” is playing in theatres, but today it opened on Netflix.

There is no buzz, none that I can feel. But when it comes to streaming TV it’s all viewer generated, and it happens slowly, but I don’t think there will be a huge groundswell of “The Power of the Dog” viewers, because it’s so slow at the beginning.

They’re in Montana, endlessly beautiful, but I hung on through the credits to find out where they shot it and it turns out New Zealand, chalking up another mark to visit the country where I have only been to the airport.

So what you’ve got here is a western set in Montana in 1925, not a cross-border dope dealing movie like I thought. Although it took me a while to realize it wasn’t. I was waiting for my memory of the book to kick in, and it never did. But you should read “The Power of the Dog” trilogy. It’s pulpy and far from highbrow but it’s eminently readable and will keep you hooked, as it educates you on dope in America.

But like I said, this movie is not that book. Rather it’s based on a obscure fifty year old novel. Jane Campion wrote the screenplay. And as I’m watching the film unfold I’m remembering, as great as Campion is, her films are usually very slow.

So I’ll tell you, up until nearly the end I wasn’t impressed. I had no desire to write about “The Power of the Dog.” But when it was over…

I misunderstood what was happening. I needed Felice to explain it. And then I’m running through the scenes in my head, figuring it out. Then I’m discussing it with Felice again. Finally, I have to go online to research, I wanted more, needed more, I wanted to make sure I understood the film correctly.

This is what moviegoing experiences used to be like. This is what the golden age of cinema was all about, the late sixties into the seventies, all the way up to the eighties, when the blockbuster paradigm instituted by Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” took hold and the film business was forever altered. Before that there was no talk of tentpoles, not every film was required to be a blockbuster, and superheroes were rare, never mind cartoons. I mean you see a Marvel movie and what is there to say?

So… I never would have gone to the theatre to see “The Power of the Dog.” I don’t want to waste that much time. I can’t be late. So I go early. And I’ve got to budget for traffic and endure the aforementioned trailers and… One of the main reasons I don’t go, other than Covid, is I’ve found I can’t slow down enough for them. My regular life has my brain firing and the experience is unsatisfactory.

And to be honest, my brain was firing during the initial scenes of “The Power of the Dog” and then…

Did I need to see this to the end? Was Felice mad that I made her watch it, the day it came out, telling her about it all day?

The cinematography is astounding. And unless you’ve got an OLED TV you’ll miss something, it’ll be better on the big screen, you need those blacks, that contrast.

So, you get hooked by the movie, you’re trying to figure out the plot, and then it’s over and you wonder WHAT HAPPENED?

“The Power of the Dog” is a bit too highbrow for it to become a streaming phenomenon. But I will tell you that if it didn’t open within a week of its big screen debut, I probably never would have watched it when it finally came to pay cable, even streaming services. The heat is off. Whereas opening day on Netflix, the heat is on!

So it’s two hours and change. You’ve got to commit. It’s not painful, but at first you will not be riveted. But then you’ll be drawn in…

Jesse Plemons as brother George is always good, although he always has the same slow, stilted delivery in every film, I wonder how he talks in real life.

As far as Benedict Cumberbatch… I’ve missed seemingly everything he’s done other than “Sherlock Holmes,” so…he’s good, and different.

Now if you check RottenTomatoes, “The Power of the Dog” has a 95% critics rating and a 76% audience rating, which is exactly what I expected. “The Power of the Dog” is not for everybody. But if the foregoing resonates, if you’re a fan of art house cinema, if you can spend the time to get the dividend, I highly recommend it. Because it will get you thinking, it will stick with you.

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