The Power of the Dog premiered in theaters in November 2021 and on Netflix in December 2021. It is a psychological Western drama following Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch), a ranch owner who struggles with his repressed sexuality in 1925 Montana. The film has been nominated for 11 Oscars at the 2022 Academy Awards and has been heavily praised for its unique approach to a powerful theme.
However, the movie received its fair share of criticism as well – most notably so from Sam Elliott, whose harsh words about the movie immediately became viral.
During a recent appearance on the podcast WTF with Marc Maron, Elliott called a movie “piece of sh*t” and was very upset by its homosexual allusions. He also had a problem with a fact that director Jane Campion directed a movie about the American west, when she herself is from New Zealand and therefore, according to him, unfit to tell the story.
“what the f*ck does this woman from down there, New Zealand, know about the American west? And why in the f*ck does she shoot this movie in New Zealand and call it Montana and say, ‘This is the way it was.’ That f*cking rubbed me the wrong way, pal.”
Elliott also disliked the representation of cowboys, claiming they look like Chippendales dancers, “running around in chaps and no shirts“.
His fiery comments were not well received by the film community, including Benedict Cumberbatch himself, who spoke about it during the BAFTA Film Sessions. Cumberbatch disagreed with Elliott, implying such a stance causes damage to society and encourages repression. He believes we should instead look into toxic masculinity to discover the root causes of it in order to eliminate its existence in future generations.
“These people still exist in our world. Whether it’s on our doorstep or whether it’s down the road or whether it’s someone we meet in a bar or pub or on the sports field, there is aggression and anger and frustration and an inability to control or know who you are in that moment that causes damage to that person and, as we know, damage to those around them. There’s no harm in looking at a character to get to the root causes of that. This is a very specific case of repression, but also due to an intolerance for that true identity that Phil is that he can’t fully be. The more we look under the hood of toxic masculinity and try to discover the root causes of it, the bigger chances we have of dealing with it when it arises with our children”.
Elliot’s opinion, however strong, is still shared only by a minority of people, while a majority of audience believes The Power of the Dog poses a complex plot with equally complex, well written characters which constitute “one of the finest narratives and film endings of 2021“.