I had very little knowledge of what this film was about before I saw it except that it was a western directed by Jane Campion (whose work I love) and hated by Sam Elliott (who has a very big moustache).
The story is set in Montana, 1925, and although Campion uses vistas from New Zealand as a stand-in for the state, her sweeping camera captures the beautiful desolation of the land and the immense isolation of the gothic farmhouse where two wealthy rancher siblings live. One brother is awkward and repressed; the other is a psycho who slathers his naked body with mud before swimming and castrates bulls with his bare hands. As Sam Elliott pointed out, this is not your typical western. It is a brooding psychological thriller with chaps.
I watched this film with horrible fascination as the four main characters descended into alcoholism, despair and murder. It starts out a bit stilted and slow-moving and then builds until the tension is nearly unbearable. All of the performances are extraordinary, and Kodi Smit-McPhee is the skinniest, weirdest medical student you hope you will never meet in a doctor’s office.
Hollywood bookies seem to think this is the odds-on favorite for Best Picture right now, and it does have many of the dark, brooding qualities that voters admire. I’m not sure that I agree with that; I still have a few more films to watch.
Side note: I have to admit that even before I read Sam Elliott’s comments, I wondered why the cowboys were working shirtless with just chaps. Seemed like they could get a bad sunburn that way.
Second Side note: Because apparently people want to know when there is a flash of Benedict Cumberbatch’s penis as he slathers himself in mud, I have added a new category.
The Popcorn Kernels of Truth give this film Three Kernels. It is powerful, unsettling and will definitely make you steer clear of dead cows.
Categories: FlicksIWatchedOnNetflix, FlicksThatYouShouldPick, FlicksThatHaveADick