Jane Campion directs Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons in this family drama set in the West, based Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel, about the abusive power struggles between two rancher brothers, the new woman of the house and her fey son.
I’ve read an article saying herein Cumberbatch compares with Lee Marvin in terms of menace, masculinity and stature. Don’t make me laugh? He’s either miscast here or overly clever clever casting. He never matches as a roughhouse tyrant, master of manifest destiny. And hidden away in the backstory there’s a couple of reasons for that. His repressed sexuality for one, the fact he is only a rich boy play acting as a man of the earth is the other. Yet I doubt his performance is that complex, it is happenstance that the job of convincing he’s a real man’s man is beyond him. Campion clearly loves the paradox of his antagonist. She all but forgets Dunst and Plemons in the last act, which is a shame as their performances have a fair bit more mileage to them. There is a good twist at the close (as I type that I realise the term “twist” has never been more appropriate… so mini round of applause for that.) The strong cinematography by Ari Wegner manages to make the landscapes beautiful but oppressive. The production design equally hits the right balance between stark and visually striking. The pace of it though is just a few beats off, confusing slovenliness with significance. There are definite longueurs where more psychological content could be neatly fitted in.
Perfect Double Bill: East Of Eden (1955)
Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk
We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/